US eyes accused drug trafficker’s property for border wall

The U.S. government on Dec. 22 filed to take the property of an accused Starr County drug trafficker and use it to build a border barrier.

Juan Indalecio Garcia, 39, owns about 135 acres of land south of Rio Grande City. The government filed a declaration of taking for 11.4 acres of that property.

Garcia is currently in federal custody accused of helping traffic 320 kilograms of cocaine through the property belonging to his father, Americo Garcia, on Jan. 17, 2019. That property sits west of the land the government plans to take.

“The public purpose for which said property is taken is to construct, install, operate, and maintain roads, fencing, vehicle barriers, security lighting, cameras, sensors, and related structures designed to help secure the United States/Mexico border within the State of Texas,” the lawsuit reads.

Schematics of that land illustrate the sidelong sliver the government is taking.

Unlike condemnations of property, in this taking the government is offering compensation in the amount of $65,758.00. Typically, in most condemnation cases, the government seeks to enter the property for surveying purposes with just compensation estimated at $100.

Court records don’t yet indicate an attorney in the civil case. Attempts to reach out to the defense attorney to comment on the civil case targeting Garcia’s property were unsuccessful.

During a pretrial conference hearing held Friday, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane was told Garcia’s family is working to retain new counsel in the criminal proceedings. Attorney Gocha Ramirez was representing Garcia, but he had to withdraw as he’s preparing to take his new role as Starr County’s District Attorney in January.

An initial hearing on the property is scheduled to take place on March 3, 2021. Jury selection on Garcia’s criminal trial on the trafficking charges is scheduled to start the day before, March 2, 2021.