McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The South Texas brother of a former Gulf Cartel boss on Monday was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a cocaine ring that Department of Justice officials say spanned multiple states.
Lee Roy Villarreal, 39, of Rio Grande City, Texas, must serve 180 months followed by five years supervised release for his involvement in a large-scale cocaine distribution network, U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani announced.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen handed down the sentence Monday in Houston. The court found Villarreal ran a cocaine network for nearly five years during which time he and his associates distributed up to 450 kilograms of cocaine from Mexico and Panama to a number of distributors based in Texas, Georgia, Illinois and Indiana.
Villarreal is the brother of Michael Villarreal, AKA “Gringo Mike,” a former Gulf Cartel plaza boss who was killed in March 2013 by rival Gulf Cartel members, Justice officials said.
“Drug cartels like Gulf Cartel, AKA Cartel del Golfo (CDG,) flood our communities with drugs that cause death and destruction, but high-ranking CDG leaders like Villarreal are not immune from stiff punishments,” Hamdani said in a statement. “This prosecution dealt a tough blow to the CDG’s operations. Villarreal brought poison to our communities, and collaborative efforts with our partners brought him to justice.”
A federal jury in July 2019 found Villarreal guilty of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. During the trial, Villarreal was accused of running drug trafficking operations on the U.S. side, in South Texas, on behalf of Gringo Mike and the Gulf Cartel.
Witnesses said Villarreal directed workers to import, stash and transport cocaine to various cities across the United States. He also was in charge of repatriating the proceeds from the drug sales back to Mexico via Gringo Mike and the Gulf Cartel.
At least one stash house in Mission, Texas, was used to store cocaine and drug proceeds, according to testimonies.
Villarreal testified he had no connection with drugs nor was involved with illegal activities with his brother. He said he operated a legitimate auto mechanic business.
So far, 12 other individuals have been convicted in relation to these charges.
The FBI led the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation, which was dubbed Operation La Hermandad. Officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigation, Border Patrol, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, Starr County High Intensity Drug Task Force, and Mission Police also helped in the investigation.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com