Midway Road drug traffickers handed significant sentences

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McALLEN — A half dozen men convicted of running drugs along the banks of the Rio Grande near Midway Road have each been given lengthy sentences in federal prison.

The six men were participants in the so-called Garcia drug trafficking organization, or Garcia DTO, which operated primarily from homes located along Midway Road in Rio Grande City.

Prosecutors say the group smuggled hundreds of pounds of cocaine through the region while raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit proceeds from around 2015 until their apprehensions in 2019 and early 2020.

“Lots of informants testified that a hundred kilograms moved per day with ATVs on the Garcia and Sepulveda properties near Midway,” U.S. District Judge Randy Crane said during a joint sentencing hearing held for the six men on May 12.

The defendants even had cameras and ground sensors meant to detect law enforcement activity, according to a pre-sentencing report issued by the U.S. Probation Office, Crane said.

Charging documents also indicate the group used frequency jammers to try to conceal their activity.


The stiffest sentence Crane handed down went to Jose Luis Garcia, whom prosecutors say was the leader of the Garcia DTO.

Though Garcia faced up to life in prison under the terms of the federal sentencing guidelines, the judge instead chose to sentence him to 27 years in federal prison, to be followed by five years under supervised release.

Meanwhile, the next lengthiest sentence went to a man prosecutors say threatened to kill the federal agents who arrested him.

“He told the drug enforcement officer that if he could have gotten to his weapons, he would have killed them,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia “Pat” Profit said of Daniel Sepulveda just before Crane handed down a 23-year sentence against the man.

Upon his release Sepulveda will remain under supervised release for an additional five years.

Drug running for the Garcia DTO was apparently a family affair, as the criminal enterprise also ensnared several of Sepulveda’s relatives, including two brothers, his father, and a cousin who authorities believe was murdered by the cartel in Mexico.

But in relation to the drug trafficking operations along Midway Road in rural Rio, it was Daniel’s brothers, Rene and Evaristo Sepulveda III, who were sentenced alongside him earlier this month.

Evaristo was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison, while Rene was sentenced to 188 months, or just under 16 years. Both men will also serve five years under supervised release.

A fifth man, Juan Indalecio Garcia, was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison, plus five years’ supervised release.

All five of the men pleaded guilty to the charges against them, admitting to trafficking “5 kilograms or more” of cocaine, according to copies of the plea agreements all five defendants reached with federal prosecutors.

But prosecutors say — and the defendants admitted — to much more than that.

Citing the presentence reports prepared against them, Profit detailed how the defendants had trafficked hundreds of pounds of cocaine and marijuana into the country.

Furthermore, during the course of their investigation, federal agents seized nearly $500,000 in cash while executing search warrants on properties owned by some of the defendants in August 2019 and later in February 2020.

Agents also located an arsenal of weapons, including 15 firearms from the home of Daniel Sepulveda — the man who had threatened to kill his arresters — as well as four handguns and four rifles from the home of Jose Luis Garcia, including at least one AR-15.


Meanwhile, unlike his co-conspirators who pleaded guilty, the sixth man to be sentenced on May 12 — Edgar Yuan Moreno Barragan — chose to go to trial and was convicted by a jury last December.

Crane sentenced Barragan to 10 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.

In sentencing Barragan, the judge made what is known as an “upward departure.”

Under the terms of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Barragan had been facing between 87 and 108 months in prison.

Instead, Crane assessed a sentence one year longer than the higher end of the guideline recommendations.

Last Wednesday, Barragan’s attorneys filed a notice appealing his sentence to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

A seventh person, Julisa Peña — the wife of Evaristo Sepulveda III — pleaded guilty to related charges.

According to charging documents, Peña used her husband’s drug trafficking proceeds to pay for the construction of a $230,000 home in cash — money she worried would be questioned by the IRS, according to text messages between Peña and her husband which were obtained by law enforcement.

Authorities also say Peña sometimes served as a lookout for her husband, texting him when she noticed law enforcement movement in Rio Grande City, according to charging documents.

On Feb. 10 of this year, Crane sentenced Peña to 18 months in prison.


But it was the men and their brazen chutzpah in conducting their operations that stood out to the judge as he deliberated their sentences earlier this month.

Aside from threatening the agents, the group also took proactive measures to derail the government’s investigation.

In one instance, Jose Luis ordered his men to destroy surveillance cameras that had been installed along Midway Road.

Authorities later found the camera setups riddled with bullet holes.

When Texas Rangers analyzed the camera boxes, they found that the bullets had originated from the home of Evaristo Sepulveda Jr. — the father of Rene and Evaristo III who lived just down the road from their father.

There was also some discussion in open court over whether the men had been involved in a kill order for a man named Joaquin Sepulveda, cousin to Daniel and Rene.

Prosecutors allege that Joaquin had been involved in a different arm of Mexican cartel activity. His job, according to Profit, was to smuggle “high value aliens” into the U.S. — people who work for the cartels.

According to Profit, Joaquin Sepulveda fled from authorities while on the U.S. side of the border. He ditched his vehicle in the Rio Grande and swam to Mexico. However, the Mexican cartel for which he worked allegedly feared Joaquin would cooperate with law enforcement.

Joaquin was subsequently taken into custody by Mexican authorities and “was never seen again,” the prosecutor said.

In group text messages between the members of the Garcia DTO, Joaquin’s cousins allegedly spoke of him. Daniel Sepulveda spoke of how “they’re gonna ‘fill his body with air’… code for ‘they’re gonna kill him,’” Crane, the judge, said.

But Daniel Sepulveda’s attorneys denied that the messages were orders to kill his cousin. Instead, they claim that the conversation was Daniel Sepulveda’s way of saying he had no power over the decision making of the real bosses in Mexico.

“The ‘Plaza bosses’ on the other side, they’re the ones doing this,” said defense attorney Daniel A. Sanchez.

Regardless of what actually occurred, the defendants were contrite in court as they learned their sentences.

“This conviction does not define me. … I am embarrassed to stand here before you,” Rene Sepulveda said after first apologizing to his family.

“I’m not making excuses for what I have done. … I am truly sorry,” Evaristo Sepulveda said.