Conflicting testimony and accusations of a money laundering scheme in Starr County, involving one of the leaders of a drug trafficking organization arrested last week, surfaced Wednesday during the third day of federal court hearings in McAllen.
Isidoro “Lolo” Garza and Marcos Barrientos, who were arrested last week as part of a 10-count drug conspiracy indictment in Starr County, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker for their detention hearings.
The detention hearing lasted about an hour, included a witness for each side, and got tense at times when attorneys spoke over each other during the Zoom meeting.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Profit said the government opposed the release of Isidoro Garza, who is considered to be one of the top three leaders in the drug trafficking organization the government began investigating in June 2020.
Profit said they consider him to be a danger to the community and a flight risk — factors that influence a bond determination.
Daisy Marie Garza, 23, took the witness stand for her stepfather, Isidoro Garza. Gregorio Treviño, the attorney for the defendant, asked about her stepfather’s family, work and asset history — topics of which the government attorney would also inquire.
Garza’s stepdaughter said Isidoro worked for Penitas Construction and had a “side hustle” of farmwork, or “agriculture,” she clarified.
ISIDORO GARZA’S EMPLOYMENT QUESTIONED
During Profit’s cross examination, the prosecutor asked Daisy Garza, who has a bachelor’s degree in accounting, whether she performed any accounting duties at her father’s place of employment.
“No, I have not,” Garza responded, but added she had done some work related to the payroll and quickbooks.
Profit then asked if Daisy Garza would be surprised to find out the government suspects the company is falsifying payroll records for her father and others.
“No,” she replied.
A DEA special agent, Brandon Weightman, who took the stand for the government, said they suspect the construction company is illegitimate and used for money laundering.
Profit said the government has wiretaps of conversations suggesting the drug trafficking organization was trying to establish a legitimate source of income through the construction company.
Special Agent Weightman said other employees working for the company could fall under the same scrutiny as Isidoro Garza.
GARZA’S MEXICAN FAMILY TIES
During testimony, the stepdaughter said Isidoro Garza spent the first 23 years of his life in Mexico before living the last 19 in Starr County.
When Treviño asked his client’s stepdaughter if Isidoro Garza had family in Mexico, she said, “He does not, but his family is from Mexico but they all migrated.”
All siblings lived in Los Alvarez in Starr County, even her 95-year-old grandfather, she said.
Establishing ties to Mexico is a typical concern during detention hearings when determining whether a defendant might run if released on bond.
Profit reminded the judge Garza did flee when he was arrested last week, although Treviño argued most people try to run when confronted with the possibility of arrest.
According to Weightman, Border Patrol agents saw Garza run out his back door last week, jump a fence, and was arrested in the brush behind his home.
Profit later disclosed the government had a telephone analysis performed on Isidoro Garza’s phone that revealed he had been in contact with multiple Mexican phone numbers.
Garza’s attorney said, “Mr. Garza does have friends still, does have cousins, but [it] doesn’t mean he is transacting drugs.”
ROLE IN ORGANIZATION
Government investigators believe Garza was one of the three top organizational leaders in the drug trafficking organization, including the other defendants, Ignacio “Nacho” Garza and Diego Alberto Reyes Roiz, according to Weightman.
Profit said Isidoro played a larger part in the conspiracy where he spoke and negotiated with Mexican counterparts, coordinated the movement of narcotics into the U.S. and supplied the drugs to people in Starr County.
On one occasion after a 6-kilogram load of cocaine was seized in February, the special agent said Isidoro offered to replenish him with 17 kilograms of cocaine.
At least one of the numbers identified by investigators suggested Isidoro Garza was talking to someone involved with coordinating a large methamphetamine load.
GARZA’S PROPERTY AND MONEY
After Isidoro Garza was arrested, some money, over $100,000, was found in a safe. He told investigators it was proceeds from a Mexican property the family sold.
During testimony, his stepdaughter said the Mexican property was sold in 2017. Treviño told the judge he is trying to get the contracts to demonstrate the source of the money found in the safe.
Daisy Garza was also questioned about a 16-unit apartment complex, event center, and a house she and her sister owns in Mexico. She told her stepfather’s attorney the properties were given to her by her biological father, who does not have a relationship with her stepfather.
Profit ended her questioning of Garza’s stepdaughter by asking if she believes drug traffickers pose a danger to the community.
“Yes, but my father isn’t,” Daisy Garza replied.
“That isn’t what the question was,” Profit responded and repeated the question.
“Yes,” Daisy Garza said.
Garza’s attorney requested a bond be set at $200,000 with a $10,000 surety. He also said Garza would find other employment and would turn over his permanent residency card, if released.
The judge said he will be making a ruling on bond soon.
Marcos Barrientos, who is not a U.S. citizen and who appeared before the judge Wednesday, too, will remain in detention.