McALLEN A San Juan esident convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to possess 528 kilograms and being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of federal law will be spending the next five years and 10 months in federal prison without parole, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
Convicted on May 27, 2011, by a jury's verdicts, Israel Avila, 50, of San Juan, Texas, was sentenced today by U. S. District Judge Randy Crane to 70 months in federal prison for possessing with intent to distribute 528 kilograms of marijuana at his residence and 70 months incarceration for being a felon in possession of firearm. The sentences are to be served concurrently.
During the one-day trial earlier this year, the jury heard testimony from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent that on March 3, 2011, he had received information that marijuana was about to be moved from a stash house along the Rio Grande River near San Juan to another stash house. Acting upon the information, DEA agents with the assistance of the U. S. Border Patrol located the property near the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge approximately a quarter-mile from the Rio Grande River. Avila lived at the residence owned by his mother.
DEA agents contacted Avila and obtained his consent to search the property. Avila told agents they would find bundles of marijuana in a chicken coop in the back of the property and provided a key to the gate of the fence surrounding it. As a result of searching the chicken coop as well as other buildings on the property, agents found a total of 30 bundles of marijuana weighing approximately 528 kilograms.
Avila claimed that a half bundle of marijuana also found by agents in yet another building on the property was his for personal use. Agents also testified Avila told them he had two firearms on the property. Agents found a .38 caliber revolver and .22 rifle in Avila's residence. An admitted convicted felon, Avila told agents and later testified at trial that he owned the firearms and knew he was not allowed to own firearms.
In addition to the prison terms, Judge Crane also ordered Avila serve a total of four years of supervised release upon completing his prison term. In custody since his March 3, 2011, arrest, Avila has been ordered to remain in custody to serve his sentence pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future.
This investigation was conducted by the DEA in conjunction with the United States Border Patrol. Assistant U. S. Attorney Juan F. Alanis prosecuted this case.