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March 5, 2001

Pecos trio among 15 linked to drug ring

Staff Writer

PECOS, March 5, 2001 - Three men from Pecos are among 15 persons arrested by local law enforcement agencies late last week as part of an investigation that began two years ago into a major drug smuggling operation in West Texas.

The 15 people are accused of helping smuggle tons of marijuana into the United States through their involvement in two closely linked West Texas drug rings.

"All of the defendants are related by blood or marriage," said John C. Kelley, U.S. Customs Service Special Agent in Charge in El Paso. "They operated in remote and isolated areas, thus creating a challenge for Customs investigators."

The arrests took place on Thursday, beginning before dawn, when agents with the United States Customs Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Marshals Service, Pecos Police Department and the Odessa Police Department began picking up the suspects in Odessa, Pecos, Presidio, Monahans, Alpine, Breckenridge, and Hobbs, N.M.

The arrests occurred after a federal grand jury in Midland returned a 12-count sealed indictment on Wednesday, Feb. 21 charging 24-year-old Jose "Josecin" Sanchez of Presidio, (the alleged leader of the organization) and 11 other people with transporting some one to two tons of marijuana from Ojinaga, Mexico, to Odessa.

The indictment, unsealed last week by U.S. Magistrate Judge Durwood Edwards in Alpine, contains a charge of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance and substantive charges of possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance.

It alleges that the defendants, operating between June 1998 and December 1999, smuggled hundreds of pounds of marijuana at a time across the Rio Grande at various low water spots near Presidio. After concealing the marijuana inside vehicles, they transported it to Odessa. The indictment also alleges that in carrying out their distribution scheme, the defendants would also use "scout" vehicles to alert the "load" drivers to open checkpoints or law enforcement presence on the highway. If convicted, the defendants face between 10 years and life in Federal prison.

"There were two separate indictments and one of them has to do with Pecos," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Parras of Midland.

The arrested defendants named in this first indictment (Jose Sanchez indictment) include:

Isidro Sanchez, a.k.a. "Chilo," 42, who was arrested in Presidio; Yesenia Sanchez, 29, arrested in Presidio; Carlos Molinar Sanchez, 23, arrested in Alpine; Christina Rios, 28, arrested in Odessa; Rachel Borunda, 32, arrested in Odessa and Carlos Huerta, 24, arrested in Odessa.

Five other defendants named in the indictment were already in custody on unrelated charges. They include: Jose "Josecin" Sanchez; 33-year-old Javier Sanchez of Odessa; 26-year-old Michelle Porras of Odessa; 49-year-old Jose Gonzalez-Montanez of Midland and 20-year-old Jose Sotelo of Odessa. Clay Sanchez, of Chihuahua, Mexico, remains a fugitive in this case.

In the second case, the federal grand jury also returned a 21-count indictment against 14 individuals for conspiring together to transport some three to four tons of marijuana from Ojinaga, Mexico, through Presidio and into Pecos and Odessa.

The indictment contains alleges that this group primarily moved their marijuana to Pecos where it was stored in underground concrete bunkers before being distributed to various places in the United States.

This indictment contains charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, conspiracy to import a controlled substance, and substantive counts of possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance. If convicted, the defendants face between 10 years and life in Federal prison.

The arrested defendants named in this indictment include:

Jose Alfredo Jimenez, a.k.a. "Freddy," 26, arrested in Odessa; Ariel Pando, 25, of Pecos; Yesenia Estrella, 24, who was arrested in Breckenridge, but is a former Pecos resident; Servando Sanchez, 48, arrested in Hobbs, N.M.; Marcia Sanchez, 48, arrested in Monahans; Catalina Gonzalez Sanchez, 33, arrested in Odessa; Karina Acosta-Sanchez, 25, arrested in Presidio; Jeannie Llanez, 28, arrested in Alpine and Arturo Valdez, 21, arrested in Alpine.

Three other defendants charged in this indictment were already in custody on unrelated charges. They include 22-year-old Benjamin Montano, Thomas Herrera and Gregorio Navarrette, 46, all of Pecos.

"Herrera is out on bond and he will be kept on the same conditions in Mildand," said Parras. "We will keep the same agreement with him, that he is currently under."

Montano is currently in jail in Big Spring, while Navarrette is in jail in Monahans.

"These are further allegations and all of it will be taken care of in Midland," said Parras.

"There are other minors involved, but because they were minors at the time, they have not been charged in federal court," said Parras.

Parras said that under federal statutes the minors have not been charged federally. "Under federal law, if they are under 18, they are still considered minors," said Parras.

"There are at least three minors that have not been charged in federal court," he said.

The second indictment also charges Isidro Sanchez, Javier Sanchez and Joe Sanchez, who were named in the other indictment. It is alleged that the three either drove or escorted loads of marijuana for both organizations.

One person named, Clay Sanchez, of Chihuahua, Mexico, remains a fugitive.

"Some of the names remain sealed, there is a possibility of future arrests. It depends on whether or not those fugitives are found," said Parras.

Parras said that either these fugitives didn't know they were being sought or did not want to respond.

The arrests stem after an investigation uncovered two separate bunkers in Pecos, one found 2½ miles north of Pecos, where over 700 pounds of marijuana was located.

"A subsequent bunker was located on the outskirts of Pecos in an abandoned residence where over 125 pounds of marijuana was found," said Parras.

"I commend the agents, not only on their outstanding investigation of these case, but also in effecting the arrests, tracking down and apprehending these defendants all across West Texas and Southern New Mexico in a swift manner," said United States Attorney Bill Blagg.

"This was a complex investigation for U.S. Customs. All of the defendants are related by blood or marriage. They operated in remote and isolated areas thus creating a challenge for Customs investigators attempting to learn more about the group," said Kelley. "The fact that we were able to arrest 15 people without incident illustrates the professionalism of the Customs agents and other law enforcement personnel that assisted in the arrests."

Both indictments result from a two-year investigation by the United States Customs Service, and the Pecos Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Jeff Parras is prosecuting these cases on behalf of the Government. These investigations continue and more arrests are anticipated.

Pena says class helps emergency preparedness

Staff Writer

PECOS, March 5, 2001 - Members of the Pecos Volunteer Fire Department (PVFD) are better prepared for major disasters that might occur in Pecos and the surrounding area thanks to a four day course on the Incident Command System held last week at the Reeves County Civic Center.

The PVFD hosted the course for emergency responders from Pecos and surrounding areas.

Fire Chief Roy Pena said that a few local firefighters attended the classes with some representing Southern Union Gas, Texas New Mexico Power Company, Reeves County Sheriff's Department, Reeves County, the Town of Pecos City and a few firefighters from Wickett.

Pena said that the classes, taught by Dallas Renfrow, former president of the Texas State Fire Marshall's Association, helped them identify who would be in charge in case of any major disasters.

"What it teaches us is in a major disaster call who is in charge," he said. It's preparing you for the unexpected."

The course is described in a manual that was handed out for the classes as a course "designed to meet the needs of fire officers and managers with responsibilities to use, deploy, implement, and/or function within an Incident Command System (ICS)."

Although the course was designed more for what firefighters would do in a disaster situation, Pena said that any emergency responders were invited to join including Emergency Medical Service personnel even school district and hospital district personnel in addition to the city, county and law enforcers.

"We all need to work together," Pena said.

Pena said that the fire department has already been implementing the incident command system but the course helped teach them in more detail the benefits of having an ICS.

Pena explained that in case of a major disaster there would be a command center in which emergency officials would meet and work together to issue instructions for the emergency personnel.

"There has to be an incident command center set," he said.

The course also offered an explanation of all the responsibilities of the incident commander for each department.

Pena explained that in case of any accident, fire or disaster the incident commander is responsible for everyone on site including emergency responders and any on lookers.

Pena said that the course went very well and he plans on taking all the information back to the Volunteer Fire Department's assembly to teach those who did not attend what they need to know.

"We're going to master this book, " he said. "We don't want to be caught off guard, we want to do it right."

Second Assistant to the Chief Arturo Granado said that the class was informational and interesting.

"It's going to benefit the department," he said.

Granado said with the possibility of Amtrak routing its trains through Pecos as well as numerous trucks carrying radioactive waste en route to the WIPP site in New Mexico there is are additional possibilities for disaster that the city and county needs to be prepared for.

"There's a big potential of us having a major disaster," he said.

Pena and Granado both said the class was very worthwhile but they both wished more people had participated.

"We did enjoy this class, it was very beneficial to us," Granado said. "I just wish a lot more people had attended the class."

Council told approval given by UP for Rodeo Hall lease

Staff Writer

PECOS, March 5, 2001 - The Town of Pecos City Council gave tentative approval to all legal documents pertaining to the Municipal Law Enforcement Center during a special meeting at noon on Friday, though the members were unable to fully review the documents, which only arrived at City Hall late Friday morning.

Council members were also told during the meeting that the next step has been taken in the effort to develop a Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame Museum in downtown Pecos, with approval of a lease agreement on the old Missouri-Pacific Railroad depot.

City Attorney Scott Johnson reported to the Council that he received the final documents on the new Law Enforcement Center earlier that morning and would distribute copies to the council Friday afternoon.

Johnson said since the documents had not come in until that morning he would recommend for the Council to approved the form of agreements subject to the approval of Johnson and City Manager Carlos Yerena.

Yerena informed the Council that the documents covered everything that has already been discussed.

"This is just the final documentation," he said.

Johnson said he would get copies of the documents to the Council that afternoon so they would have all weekend to review them and if they had any questions they could call him or Yerena.

The Council approved the form of agreements subject to Johnson's and Yerena's approval.

Johnson said next step is approval by the attorney general before construction can begin.

The facility will be built along the north access road of Interstate 20 between Texas and Moore streets. It is designed to hold almost 100 inmates and will also serve as the new home of the Pecos Police Department.

As a side note, Johnson reported to the Council that just before the meeting he received word that Union Pacific Railroad had approved a 20-year lease to the city for the old railroad depot.

The city has made plans to place the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame in the depot and had already acquired the building, but did not own the land at the foot of Oak Street the building is located on.

"Things are looking pretty good," Johnson said. The lease agreement was needed before the city and the Pecos Chamber of Commerce could begin attempting to secure grants for development of the Hall of Fame.

The council is scheduled to meet for a regular meeting this Thursday at 7:30 a.m.

School board set to discuss tax payments

PECOS, March 5, 2001 - A plan to notify the public concerning accepting partial tax payments until Jan. 31 of each year will be discussed at the regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board Meeting scheduled for 6 p.m., Tuesday.

The group will meet at 1304 S. Park, in the boardroom, to discuss several items and the public is invited to attend the open portion of the meeting. The meeting was moved up two days from its normal date on the second Thursday of the month.

Board members will recognize the Pecos High School Swim Team which placed seventh in the boys division of the Class 4A state meet last month in Austin; will review a letter from 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks: Community Justice Council election results and listen to a tax protest and request by Sally Gomez.

Under old business the board will discuss and listen to a report on Pecos High School roofing project; an update on CATE building and selection of construction procurement method; bus proposals and a proposal for a goose neck hitch type stock trailer.

The group will discuss and approve 2001-2002 school calendar; a request by the Women's Division of the Chamber of Commerce and the Golden Girl Committee for use of the Pecos High School auditorium for Golden Girl of the Old West, revue practices and pageant and waive fees; utilities cost; offers to purchase foreclosed properties located at 405 S. Mesquite and 1401 S. Cypress; 2000-2001 budget amendments and will review board training received by board members.

The group will discuss and approve a resolution for Texas Public Schools Week-March 5-9.

School board members will meet in closed session, as authorized by the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Government Code, Section 551.101 et. Seq., Section 551.074: Discuss personnel or hear complaints against personnel, Section 551.071: Private consultation with the board's attorney. (1). Discuss evaluations and renewal of probationary and term contract employees. (2). Discuss evaluations and renewal of assistant principals' contracts and (3). Discuss other personnel.

The group will return to open session and take action, if any, on items discussed in closed session. Professional personnel contract renewals. Renewal of assistant principals' contracts.

Under regular agenda items board members will discuss and approve:

Professional personnel: appointments, resignations, reassignments, retirements, change of contract.

Tax report.

Depository securities report.

Cafeteria report and commodities received.

Current bills and financial report.

Reconciled bank statement report.

Attendance/enrollment report.

Reeves County Community Recreation Department Report.

Time and date for next meeting.

Calendar of events.

Request for items for next agenda.

Police seeking info on $4,300 jewelry theft

PECOS, March 5, 2001 - Pecos Valley Crime Stoppers is seeking the community's help in solving a burglary of a residence in which over $4,000 in items were reported stolen.

On Jan. 8, at approximately 2:22 p.m., Pecos Police were dispatched to the 500 block of Bois D'Arc Street in reference to a burglary of a residence. Upon arrival Pecos Police Officers were advised that subject or subjects had entered the resident through the west side bedroom window of the residence. Once inside, they took a yellow rope style necklace with a yellow nugget on it which was located in a dresser drawer.

Other items taken included a yellow in color nugget man's watch, several women's rings and other assorted jewelry. Total value of the stolen property was set at $4,300.

Anyone who has information on this burglary or information on anyone who might be trying to sell jewelry items on the street, in bars, or on school campuses, should call Crime Stoppers at 445-9898 and you will remain anonymous.


Danny Shelton and Charles Towler

Police Report

EDITOR'S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff's Office, or other officers of those agencies.
The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines of either traffic citations, animal control violations or other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such instanced we will indicate payment and release.
Jaime Levario, 22, was arrested at 11:53 p.m., on March 3 in the 1200 block of East Fourth Street for public intoxication and two DPS warrants for speeding and failure to adjudicate.

Mickey Gabaldon, 17, Felipe Ornelas, Jr., 17, and Thomas L. Munoz, 17, were arrested at 12:14 a.m., on March 4 in the 300 block of North Hickory Street. Gabaldon was arrested for possession of alcohol-Class C and public intoxication. Ornelas was arrested for possession of alcohol-3rd Offense-Class B and public intoxication. Munoz was arrested for driving under the influence, possession of marijuana under two ounces in a drug free zone and possession of alcohol-3rd offense.

Jose L. Ortiz, 39, was arrested at 6:26 p.m., on March 2 in the 300 block of South Orange Street for assault under the Family Violence Act and a warrant for theft by check.

Jerry Orona, 17, was arrested 12:23 a.m., on March 3 in the 500 block of South Palm Street for assault under the Family Violence Act.

Ernesto Baca, 17, and Javier Hernandez, 24, were arrested at 2:15 a.m., on March 3 in the 1000 block of Walnut Street. Baca was arrested on two warrants for minor in possession and failure to adjudicate. Hernandez was arrested for driving while intoxicated and two warrants for criminal mischief.

Gerardo Gutierrez, 29, was arrested at 3:57 a.m., on March 2 in the 600 block of East Second Street for public intoxication.

Leroy Chavez, 20, was arrested at 7:38 p.m., on March 1 at Oak and F Streets for driving while license suspended.

Ronald Fossum, 52, was arrested at 8:35 p.m., on March 1 on Farm-to-Market road 869 for possession of marijuana-felony.


PECOS, March 5, 2001 - High Sunday 68. Low this morning 36. Friday afternoon rainfall at Texas A&M Experiement Station .14 inch. Year-to-date 1.46 inches. Forecast for tonight: Increasing high clouds, low in the mid 30s. Tuesday: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers. High in the mid 60s. Tuesday night: Mostly cloudy with a slight chance of showers. Low around 40. Wednesday: Mostly cloudy and breezy with a slight chance for showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 60s.

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