SAN ANTONIO—U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy, DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, FBI Special Agent in Charge David Cuthbertson, U.S. Border Patrol Marfa Sector Chief Patrol Agent John Smietana and El Paso Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Randy Hill, El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza and El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles announced the arrest of seven individuals charged in two separate indictments returned by a federal grand jury in El Paso, Texas. The indictments arise out of a kidnapping in El Paso and a murder in Juarez following the seizure of almost 700 pounds of marijuana in August 2009.
Those arrested include: Rafael Vega, age 26, of Tornillo; Cesar Obregon-Reyes, age 21, a Mexican citizen residing in Tornillo; Omar Obregon-Ortiz, age 21, a Mexican citizen residing in Tornillo; Joey Albert Ashley, age 39, of El Paso; Manuel Hernandez, age 46, of El Paso; David Vasquez Pena, age 42, of El Paso; and, David Octavio Calleros, age 26, of El Paso.
One indictment charges Ashley, Hernandez, Pena and Calleros with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana and one count of possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. The charges stem from the Aug. 5, 2009, seizure of 670 pounds of marijuana hidden inside a tractor-trailer rig driven by Ashley and Hernandez. Border Patrol agents made the seizure at the Sierra Blanca checkpoint. It is alleged that Pena and Calleros were responsible for loading the marijuana into the tractor-trailer rig in El Paso.
A separate, but related indictment charges Vega, Obregon-Reyes, and Obregon-Ortiz with kidnapping; conspiracy to kidnap, kill or maim in a foreign country; use of an interstate communication facility in commission of murder for hire; and, interstate and foreign travel in aid of racketeering. Vega is also charged in this indictment with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. These charges stem from the Sept. 3, 2009, kidnapping of Sergio Saucedo from his home in Horizon City, Texas. The kidnapers took Saucedo to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where he was murdered and mutilated in retaliation for the loss of the marijuana load seized at the Sierra Blanca checkpoint.
“These indictments demonstrate the continuing commitment of federal and local law enforcement officials in working together to combat the drug trafficking cartels. The charges of kidnapping and murder should send the clear message that such violence will not be tolerated in the United States. We will aggressively prosecute all provable acts of violence committed within our jurisdiction, and those engaged in such acts will be severely punished,” stated U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy.
Upon conviction, Vega, Cesar Obregon and Omar Obregon could be sentenced to life in federal prison; if they are convicted of the kidnapping or murder for hire, the law provides that they shall be sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Ashley, Hernandez, Pena and Calleros face between five and 40 years in prison if convicted.
“These arrests demonstrate that when spillover violence does rarely happen in our city, law enforcement makes every effort to bring to justice those people who committed these crimes,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David Cuthbertson.
“Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our community. DEA, and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners in El Paso, will remain relentless in our pursuit of the vicious criminal individuals and drug trafficking organizations who threaten our safety and stability. These arrests send a strong and unified message that these crimes will not be tolerated in our community and those who commit these offenses will be brought to justice,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit.