BROWNSVILLE, TX – A 33-year-old Houston woman has been found guilty of two counts of drug trafficking, US Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani announced.
Judge Rolando Olvera deliberated for three days before sentencing Brenda Banessa Leal to one count of conspiracy with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and one count of possession with intent to distribute. The bench trial started on 27 February and ended on 1 March.
During the trial, the judge heard evidence that since at least 2018, Leal has helped several family members who were part of a drug trafficking organization. She helped transport drugs, mainly cocaine, from Mexico to Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. The substances were hidden in the rear differential of tractor trailers.
Several members of the organization reside in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, where Leal has lived most of his adult life. She also helped family members transport large amounts of cash, ammunition and weapons to Mexico.
The court evidence of text and whatsapp messages between co-conspirators, prison call recordings as well as videos detailing Leal’s criminal acts.
The investigation revealed that between February 2021 and June 2021, Leal was the logistics coordinator for the drug trafficking organization. In that role, she coordinated drivers, dealers and cover loads on this side of the border. In June 2021, as Leal and co-conspirators prepared to unload a tractor-trailer truck containing approximately 33 kilograms of cocaine, the organization was robbed (“ripped”) of the cocaine by another drug-trafficking organization.
Authorities arrested that group shortly after stealing the cocaine from Leal.
The defense tried to convince the judge that Leal had no knowledge of the cocaine hidden in the tractor trailer and was simply a victim of the “rip crew”. Judge Olvera did not believe these claims and found Leal guilty as charged.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS – Criminal Investigation, the US Marshals Service and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force conducted Operation Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) with the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles top-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strength of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Further information about the OCDETF program can be found on the Ministry of Justice’s OCDETF website. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alejandra Andrade and Ed Rodriguez are prosecuting the case.