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Wednesday, May 16, 2001

`Pot bunker' trial dates set for Pecos duo

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wednesday, May 16, 2001 -- Jury selection and a jury trial have been scheduled for two Pecos  men who have been charged with drug offenses in federal court.

The jury selection and trial for Gregorio Navarrette, 46, and Thomas Herrera will be held at 9:15 a.m., on Monday, June 4, in U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, in Midland with Jeff Parras, Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting the case.

"There are about 19 people named on this conspiracy case," said Parras.

Local law enforcement agencies helped with the arrests of those involved in what prosecutors called a major drug smuggling operation in West Texas. Most of the arrests took place in early March, as part of a roundup that included cities in Texas and New Mexico.

The raids took place beginning before dawn on March 1 when agents with the United States Customs Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Marshals Service, Pecos Police Department and the Odessa Police Department hit the streets in Odessa, Pecos, Presidio, Monahans, Alpine, Breckenridge, and Hobbs, N.M. A total of 15 people were arrested that day as a result of separate investigations into two large-scale marijuana smuggling and distribution operations.

The arrests were made after a Federal grand jury in Midland returned a 12-count sealed indictment on 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.

That case resulted from an investigation that 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.

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.

The federal grand jury indictment in the Pecos case involved 21 counts 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. This indictment included Herrera and Navarrette, both of whom were already in jail when the grand jury returned its indictments.

A third Pecos man, identified as 22-year-old Benjamin Montano, also was indicted while in jail back in February, but no trial date has been set in his case.

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 the Pecos-related 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.

"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, "Under federal law, if they are under 18, they are still considered minors," and cannot face adult charges.

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

The trial was moved to Midland, since a lot of the defendants involved in the investigation are from that area, according to Parras.

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

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

Fox stays on cable system, WGN going Classic says

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wednesday, May 16, 2001 -- The Dallas Cowboys aren't going away from Pecos cable TV  customers' screens, but the Chicago Cubs and White Sox are, according to  a spokesperson with Kansas-based Classic Cable.

Classic Cable customers in Pecos may have noticed some changes in the cable channels on Monday and Tuesday, with KPEJ-Fox (Ch. 8) suddenly switching to F/X or Telemundo.

A Classic Cable representative from the company's Plainville, Kan. office, who first identified himself as Bryan and later as George, said that there are no plans in the now or in the immediate future to replace the local Fox affiliate, which has been on the air in Pecos since 1994. The channel was added after Fox acquired rights to NFL telecasts, including most Dallas Cowboys football games. KPEJ will also broadcast the World Series and Super Bowl XXXVI during the upcoming year.

However, while Fox is staying on the local system, the representative said that Classic Cable is scheduled to change two channels in June. He said that there might be a chance that the change might be moving ahead of schedule.

"We're going to be dropping the Good Life channel and WGN," he said.

Currently, Good Life Television is located on channel 33 and WGN out of Chicago is on Ch. 4.

The representative said that the cable company plans to replace the two that are being dropped which will be the F/X channel and the National Geographic channel.

"One of those stations should replace one of those channels," he said.

The representative said that he understands that the Good Life channel is being switched over to the digital cable system that will be brought into this area in the near future and WGN did not renew the contract with Classic Cable. WGN has been on the local system for the past 19 years, and broadcasts both the Chicago Cubs and White Sox games across the United States, along with movies and other syndicated programming.

The spokesman said that he is not sure why the Pecos area is experiencing problems with KEPJ, which is in broadcast over the air on Ch. 24 in the Midland-Odessa area, but is picked up locally via a translator station on Ch. 18, with an antenna located on 6,500-foot Gomez Peak, 40 miles southwest of Pecos.

He said that perhaps while the workers are changing the channels some cable channels were temporarily switched causing the F/X and Telemundo channels to be seen on Ch. 8.

The representative said that the Classic Cable customers might see a few channel changes for a while but assures them that they will soon be fixed.

"They may experience a few channel changes for a few weeks," he said.

"As far as I know those are the only changes expected in the near future," he said.

Second summer swim sign-ups this afternoon

PECOS, Wednesday, May 16, 2001 -- The second of three registration sessions for the Pecos High  School summer swimming program will be this afternoon at the PHS pool.

Registration will be today 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Pecos High School swimming pool, and again at the same time next Monday, according to PHS swimming coach Terri Morse. Sign-ups are for either or both of the two-week sessions, which will run from June 4-15 and from June 18-29 at the PHS pool.

Registration for the program is $25 per session for each child enrolled. For further information, contact Morse at 447-7242.


PECOS, Wednesday, May 16, 2001 -- High Tuesday 98. Low this morning 68. Forecast for  tonight: Mostly clear. Low in the mid 60s. Southwest wind 10 to 15  mph. Thursday: Mostly sunny and continued hot. High near 100.  West to southwest wind 10 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Partly cloudy.  Low in the mid 60s. Friday and Saturday: Partly cloudy and not as warm  with a slight chance of afternoon and evening showers  and thunderstorms. Lows in the upper 50s to the lower 60s. Highs in  the upper 80s to the mid 90s.


Hector Chavez, Eugenia Sanchez and Anthony Wilson

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