McALLEN - An Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) investigation which began in Jan 2009 has resulted in 12 arrests to date for those involved in illicit drug trafficking and money laundering, United States Attorney Jose Angel Moreno announced on Friday.

A sealed indictment has been partially unsealed following the arrest of eight men from the cities of Donna, Edinburg, San Juan and Weslaco during an ICE led multi-agency enforcement action, according to Jerry Robinette, ICE special agent in charge.

Those arrested this morning include David Tijerina, 41, Jesus Davila, 28, and Jaime Galvan, 29, all of Weslaco; Ramon De Luna, 53, and Jesus De Luna, 31, both of San Juan; Ramiro Gracia-Cantu, 36, and Carlos Valdez, 30, both of Edinburg; and Juan Guerra, 29, of Donna.

All were arrested as a result of the return of a nine-count superseding indictment on Dec. 29, 2009. All eight defendants appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby on Friday and have been ordered temporarily detained without bond pending arraignment and detention hearings set for Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.

All eight men are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances between October 2004 and May 19, 2009, allegedly involving more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. With the exception of Valdez, the remaining defendants are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering during the same time period.

The indictment remains partially sealed pending the execution of an arrest warrant which remains outstanding for one other charged but not as yet in custody.

“The ICE investigation leading to this morning’s coordinated multi-agency cooperative law enforcement effort in the Rio Grande Valley demonstrates our continuing efforts to work together to dismantle and disrupt drug trafficking activity by not only targeting the product of drug trafficking but also the proceeds generated by the illegal activity and holding accountable those allegedly involved,” said Moreno via a statement.

The coordinated ICE-led joint enforcement action resulting in Friday's arrests included agents and officers of the FBI, Hidalgo County District Attorney’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA), Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department, the Hidalgo County Constable’s Office - Precinct 4, Pharr Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, Texas Department of Public Safety and San Juan Police Department.

“The safety of our communities is one of ICE's top priorities,” said Robinette. “By pooling our information and resources, ICE, along with its state, federal and local law enforcement partners, succeeded in its efforts by arresting those allegedly behind this criminal scheme and we will continue to target drug smuggling and money laundering organizations and related criminal elements.”

Several of the defendants are charged in substantive counts of drug trafficking or money laundering alleged in the indictment. Four of the eight defendants, Tijerina, Davila, Gracia-Cantu and Galvan are charged separately with laundering of approximately $1,975,261 in alleged drug proceeds in January 2009.

Tijerina, Davila, Gracia-Cantu and Valdez are charged with possessing with intent to distribute 89 kilograms of cocaine on Feb. 12, 2009. Tijerina, Davila, Gracia-Cantu, Ramon De Luna and Guerra are charged with the laundering of approximately $389,900 in alleged drug proceeds on Feb. 24, 2009. Tijerina, Davila, Gracia-Cantu, Jesus De Luna and Guerra are charged with laundering approximately $390,050 in alleged drug proceeds on Feb. 25, 2009. Tijerina, Davila, Gracia-Cantu and Valdez are charged with possessing with intent to distribute 72 kilograms of cocaine on March 5, 2009. Lastly, Gracia-Cantu is charged with possessing with intent to distribute approximately 1,915 kilograms of marijuana on May 19, 2009.

The charged drug trafficking offenses carry a punishment of no less than 10 years up to life imprisonment and $4 million in fines, upon conviction. The money laundering charges carry, upon conviction, a maximum punishment of 20 years imprisonment and thousands of dollars in fines.

Today’s arrests bring the total of persons arrested as a result of this indictment to 12. Four others were previously arrested as follows: on March 5, 2009 - Michael Talamantes, 33, of Edinburg; on May 18, 2009 - Oscar Martinez, 39, of Edinburg, and Oscar Villarreal, 39, of Donna; and on May 28, 2010 - Jose Angel Castillo-Reyna, 44, of Edinburg.