Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Thursday, January 23, 2003
`Olympic' drug trio face sentencing
By ROSIE FLORES
MIDLAND, Jan. 23, 2003 - Three defendants who were arrested after being
spotted at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, were to be sentenced
today for their participation in a drug smuggling operation that spanned
West Texas and other parts of the United States.
Francisco Rios Balderrama, Armando Garcia Quiroz and Luciano Chapa were
scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Midland
for running a continuing criminal enterprise that distributed over 30,000
kilograms (66,000 pounds) of marijuana through the West Texas area and
other parts of the United States.
On Sept. 17, 2002, a jury convicted Balderrama, Quiroz and Chapa on
various drug and money laundering charges following 13 days of trial and
three days of deliberation over a four-week period. Balderrama and Quiroz
were convicted of the continuing criminal enterprise charge, nine counts
of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, four counts of money
laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
All three defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to possess with
intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and conspiracy
to import from Mexico to the United States more than 1,000 kilograms of
Balderrama, a.ka. "Kiko," Quiroz, a.k.a. "Mando," and Ruben Valdez Carrasco
were known as the "Los Tres De La Sierra" or the "The Three of the Mountain."
The three defendants were initially arrested in September 2000, based
on a sealed federal complaint out of Alpine, charging them with conspiracy
to distribute over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, according to Fields.
Based on the complaint, the United States Attorney's Office with the
assistance of the Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs,
obtained provisional arrest warrants from the Australian courts the day
after officers with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration received a
tip that the three were in Sydney for the Olympics.
Balderrama and Quiroz were arrested on an airplane about to leave the
terminal to fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Australian authorities.
At the United States Attorney's Office request, the Australian authorities
allowed Carrasco to board the flight going through Hawaii so that American
authorities could make the arrest and avoid the extradition treaty process.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Balderrama and Quiroz stole an 18-wheeler and crashed
out of the high-security Parklea Prison in Sydney, Australia.
The Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Police re-captured
the two fugitives on Oct. 1, 2001, in Victoria, about 500 miles south of
Carrasco is serving a 252-month prison sentence after pleading guilty
to one count of running a continuing criminal enterprise.
Under the extradition treaty with Australia, the United States had to
forego seeking the death penalty against Balderrama and Quiroz.
However, the drug conspiracy charges carry a sentence of 10 years to
life, while the substantive drug counts carry sentences of 5 to 40 years
and the money laundering charges carry 20 year maximum sentences.
A fourth defendant in the case, Marcelo Manuel Bernal, 25, was acquitted
of all charges.
Property purchases, transfers on council agenda
Town of Pecos City Council members will discuss the possible purchase
and transfer of property, along with a resolution relating to grant applications
to the Texas Community Development Program, during their regularly scheduled
meeting this afternoon at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The council will discuss purchase offers of six pieces of property that
include homes, business buildings or lots in the city limits, and will
discuss the transfer of real property from the city to Reeves County in
the Evans Addition, located in the 1800 block of South Eddy Street.
The TCDP resolution is only to allow Mayor Dot Stafford, City Manager
Carlos Yerena and Finance Director George Bejarano to be the authorized
signators for state purchase vouchers and request for advancement or reimbursement
of the grant program.
Other items on the agenda include review of the December reports for
Municipal Court, the Reeves County Juvenile Court, the city tax collections
and accounts payable. Council members will also discuss/consider the city's
policy on continuing education.
Harris competent to stand trial
By Rose Flores
PECOS, Jan. 23, 2003 - The man charged with firebombing the Monahans
Police Department offices in June of 2002 and with the carjacking and slaying
of an Odessa man in May of last year has been found competent to stand
Court records show that Travis James Harris, 22, was assessed competent
to stand trial, following a psychiatric evaluation in Fort Worth this past
fall, but no trial date has been set as of yet on either charge.
Harris is scheduled to stand trial on the firebombing charge in U.S.
District Court in Pecos, and in U.S. District Court in Midland on the carjacking
and murder charges.
His court-appointed attorney, Scott Johnson of Pecos, had filed for
a motion for change of venue to El Paso, but was denied by U.S. District
Judge Royal Furgeson.
Harris has been held at the Winkler County prison facility since November
7, after being returned from Fort Worth, where he underwent the psychiatric
evaluation ordered by Furgeson in August in connection with the firebombing
While in Fort Worth, doctors were also asked for the psychiatric evaluation
to include the carjacking.
Harris was charged in Midland Federal Court with Carjacking Resulting
in Death and the Use of a Firearm during a Crime of Violence, in connection
with the death of Paul John Ceniceros, 30, whose body was found in a field
Harris is charged with carjacking Ceniceros' vehicle, which was later
found in Lubbock, killing him and dumping his body in an Ector County field.
He has not been charged with murder yet.
Prior to those charges being field, Harris was arrested on state and
federal charges connected with the firebombing of the Monahans Police Department
on June 3 of last year.
The fire, in the building that also houses Monahans' city offices, caused
severe damage to two rooms in police area, and forced Monahans Police to
relocate their offices to another location on the south side of town.
Harris is charged with breaking a window at the Monahans Police Department
building at Second and Alice streets around 3:30 a.m. on June 3 and throwing
a `Molotov cocktail' inside.
Federal, state and area law enforcement agencies assisted in the investigation
including the Pecos Police Department, the State Fire Marshal, the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Texas Rangers.
Harris could face up to 20 years for the firebombing, Johnson said in
In the federal charge of carjacking resulting in death of Ceniceros,
Harris could face life in prison or the death penalty.
Archuleta faces smuggling charges
By ROSIE FLORES
PECOS, Jan. 23, 2003 - A local woman is currently out on bond and facing
three different charges following her arrest in November at the Presidio
border crossing while attempting to transport a large amount of money into
the United States.
Laura Lynn Archuleta-Salcedo, 21, was indicted on Dec. 12, 2002, in
the United States District Court Western District of Texas Pecos Division
on three counts.
According to the indictment, on or about Nov. 11, 2002, Archuleta-Salcedo,
and others, aiding and abetting one another, attempted to smuggle over
$10,000 in United States currency across the border at Presidio.
She is charged with the attempt, it involves failing to make and file
with the Commission of Customs the report required when transporting currency
into the county.
Archuleta-Salcedo attempted to transport, transmit and transfer a monetary
instrument and funds in the amount of $14,299 in U.S. currency, which the
indictment states she knew were the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity;
the possession with intent to distribute a quantity of marijuana, a controlled
substance, in violation of title 21 United States Code, section 841 (a)
It also states Archuleta-Salcedo knew that such transportation, transmission
and transfer was designed as a whole or in part to conceal and disguise
the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the proceeds of
the specified unlawful entity.
Count one of the indictment charges Archuleta-Salcedo with concealment
of material fact within customs jurisdiction.
Count two charges her with willful failure to make and file currency
report and count three: laundering of money instruments.
Maximum sentence on the offenses: on counts one and two: five years
confinement and $250,000 fine, three years supervised release, $100 special
Count three: 20 years; $500,000, supervised release of minimum two years
and maximum three years and $100 special assessment.
PECOS, Jan. 23, 2003 - High Wednesday 58. Low this morning 27. Forecast
for tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows in the upper 20s. Southeast winds 5 to
15 mph..Friday: Considerable high clouds. Highs in the upper 50s. Southeast
winds 5 to 15 mph. Friday night: Mostly clear. Lows near 30. Saturday:
Sunny. Highs in the upper 60s. Sunday: Mostly clear. Lows in the lower
30s. Highs near 60.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 2003 by Pecos Enterprise