Federal judge finds Houston woman guilty of drug trafficking

A 33-year-old Houston woman accused of helping traffic illegal drugs from Mexico to Laredo and Brownsville has been found guilty of two counts of drug trafficking.

Brenda Banessa Leal opted have U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera conduct the trial alone, and after three days of hearing testimony, he found her guilty of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said in a news release.

According to the news release, Olvera heard evidence that since at least 2018, Leal assisted several family members who were part of a drug trafficking organization.

“She helped transport narcotics, mainly cocaine, from Mexico to Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. The drugs were hidden in the rear differential in tractor trailers,” the news release read.

According to the news release, several members of the organization reside in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, where Leal has lived the majority of her adult life.

She also assisted family members in transporting bulk cash money, ammunition, and weapons to Mexico.

The court evidence included text and WhatsApp messages between co-conspirators, jail call recordings as well as videos detailing Leal’s criminal actions.

The news release said the investigation revealed that between February 2021 and June 2021, Leal was the logistics coordinator of the drug trafficking organization. In that role, she coordinated drivers, dealers and cover loads on this side of the border.

In June 2021, while Leal and co-conspirators were preparing to unload a tractor truck that contained approximately 33 kilograms, or 72 pounds of cocaine, the organization got robbed (“ripped”) of the cocaine by another drug trafficking organization.

Authorities apprehended that group shortly after stealing the cocaine from Leal.

According to the news release, the defense attempted to convince the judge that Leal did not have knowledge of the cocaine that was hidden in the tractor trailer and was simply a victim of the “rip crew.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS – Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force conducted the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation with the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety.