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ICE arrests 4 members of El Paso-based cocaine, money laundering operation

EL PASO, Texas — An indictment was unsealed Thursday charging four individuals with a cocaine distribution and money laundering conspiracy based in El Paso. These indictments resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

A federal grand jury indictment was returned July 18 and unsealed Sept. 6. The indictment charges Hugo Ambriz, 39, Roberto Lara, 24, and Martha Marquez-Avalos, 28, all of El Paso; and Jesus Cabrales, 25, of Northlake, Ill., with conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The indictment alleges that from August 2009 to Feb.14, 2012, the defendants conspired to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. Additionally, the indictment alleges that from February 2010 to March 14, 2011, the defendants conspired to launder their drug proceeds.

According to the indictment, Ambriz directed the other defendants to smuggle and transport illegal drugs to various cities across the United States. They were then to return to El Paso with the drug distribution proceeds for subsequent transportation and delivery to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The indictment specifically identifies about $560,000 in drug proceeds attributed to this organization that was transported from Chicago to El Paso. During this investigation, authorities seized $125,000 and more than eight kilograms (about 18 pounds) of cocaine.

All four defendants were arrested Wednesday. HSI special agents arrested Ambriz, Lara and Marquez-Avalos in El Paso, and Cabrales in Chicago.

If convicted of the drug conspiracy charge, the defendants face between 10 years and life in federal prison. The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in federal prison.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office assisted in making these arrests.

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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