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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, January 23, 2003

`Olympic' drug trio face sentencing

Staff Writer

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 marijuana.

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 Sydney.

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
Staff Writer

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 trial.

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 incident.

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 near Odessa.

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 September.

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

Staff Writer

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) (1).

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 assessment.

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.

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Pecos Enterprise
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