Two 'major methamphetamine coordinators' for the Gulf Cartel arrested in Cameron County
BROWNSVILLE — U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained two “major methamphetamine coordinators” for the Gulf Cartel last week.
Marco Antonio “Pelon” Vela-Cardenas and Jose Luis “Chepo” Cardenas-Hernandez crossed the border near Brownsville on May 2.
Border Patrol agents detained Vela-Cardenas. Officers with the Office of Field Operations detained Cardenas-Hernandez during a separate incident, according to information released by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The regional Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force — which includes agents from the FBI, DEA and Homeland Security Investigations, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — quickly picked them up for questioning.
An attorney for Vela-Cardenas couldn’t immediately comment on the case. An attorney for Cardenas-Hernandez declined to comment.
Documents link Vela-Cardenas and Cardenas-Hernandez to methamphetamine busts in Brownsville and Robstown.
On Jan. 22, 2019, a Brownsville police officer stopped a car and approached the driver, a man named Cristian Delgado-Reyes.
It wasn’t a random traffic stop. Agents with Homeland Security Investigations had been watching Delgado-Reyes.
“Once he was encountered by the police officer, he told the officer he had drugs in his vehicle,” according to the criminal complaint against Delgado-Reyes.
Agents found about 6 kilograms of methamphetamine in the car.
“The individual was questioned about the narcotics and documents which he had in his possession. Agents determined a commercial storage site, located in Brownsville, Texas, was used by conspirators as a temporary storage location before the drugs were moved north,” according to documents filed in another case. “Agents then targeted said location for surveillance.”
Armed with information provided by an informant, agents started tracking a white Ford truck.
On Feb. 22, 2019, the truck stopped at the commercial storage site and headed north on U.S. 77.
The Robstown Police Department stopped the driver, Carlos Jose Cruz-Longoria, and searched the truck.
“During a search of the vehicle, Officers observed a red hollowed tank on the flatbed of the pickup truck,” according to the criminal complaint against Cruz-Longoria. “During further inspection, Officers observed this tank to have a false bottom, and when removed, revealed multiple bundles of suspected narcotics.”
Officers found nearly 7 kilograms of methamphetamine and 9 kilograms of cocaine.
“During subsequent proffer interviews conducted with Cruz-Longoria, he identified Marco Antonio Cardenas-Vela and Jose Cardenas-Hernandez to be major methamphetamine coordinators working in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico on behalf of the Cartel Del Golfo (CDG) Cartel,” according to court records.
On May 2, more than a year after the drug bust in Robstown, both men crossed the border near Brownsville.
Why they crossed the border remains unclear. Asked if they surrendered, federal law enforcement sources declined to comment.
In interviews, they admitted to coordinating the February 2019 drug shipment, according to court records. Vela-Cardenas also provided the DEA and Homeland Security Investigations with information about money laundering.
Vela-Cardenas said he worked with a woman named Maria Guadalupe Montellano-Moreno to move cash from the United States to Mexico.
“Vela stated Montellano-Moreno laundered amounts of $5,000 to $10,000 USD’s once a month for a period of approximately one year,” according to the criminal complaint against her.
Agents detained Montellano-Moreno at the Gateway International Bridge on May 3.
Vela-Cardenas and Cardenas-Hernandez are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
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