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Authorities arrest 19 in Texas-based cocaine distribution operation

Erin Mulvane, Houston Chronicle
Published 6:30 pm, Thursday, February 21, 2013
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Federal, state and local authorities made arrests in connection with a complex drug operation that distributed cocaine to Houston, Dallas and several other states, officials said Thursday.

The 19 individuals arrested were charged Tuesday with posession with the intent to distribute cocaine for an operation suspected of lasting from January 2009 to the present, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman's office. Six are charged additionally with bulk cash smuggling. Of those arrested, 13 are Mexican citizens.

The indictment claims that G.R. Custom Body and Paint in Austin, owned by one of the accused Hugo Gaspar, was a distribution hub for multiple sources of cocaine smuggled into the United States from Mexico. The cocaine was distributed in the Austin area, Houston, Dallas, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida and Alabama, authorities said.

Officials have seized more than $1 million and 120 pounds of cocaine connected to the operation during the investigation.

"The investigation uncovered one of the most significant drug organizations in the Austin area in terms of sheer quantities of cocaine being distributed, and the convoluted distribution web which facilitated the large-scale trafficking operation," said Javier Pena, a DEA agent in Houston.

Last month, 20–year-old Erick Rodriguez-Aguilar and 19–year-old Julio Ramon Sandoval-Arizmendi were charged with possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine in connection to this operation.