Fault Beltran Jr, age 50, and his son Edward Beltran, age 24, of Rio Grande City pleaded guilty on Monday, February 25th. The pair pleaded guilty before their trial before U.S. District Judge John Rainey in a Victoria Federal Court. Both admitted to smuggling massive amounts of marijuana. U. S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick made the announcement public through a press release dispersed by the Department of Justice.
An investigation was launched in the beginning of 2013 after Victoria County Sheriff’s Office deputies discovered 600 pounds of marijuana hidden within a horse trailer that carried two racehorses. The case led to a long investigation that included the cooperation of various law enforcement agencies and would ultimately lead to the illegal activities of the Beltran drug trafficking organization.
The Beltrans used their horse ranches in Rio Grande City to receive, repackage and conceal thousands of kilograms of marijuana in horse trailers, flat-bed trailers and tractor trailers to ship the marijuana to all points north. They used the sport of horse racing to facilitate drug smuggling and to launder illicit proceeds.
The organization also utilized violence, intimidation, bribery and public corruption to facilitate and perpetuate their illicit activities for nearly a decade with virtual impunity. The investigation demonstrated the organization’s dealings with ranking members of the Gulf and Zeta Cartels, Starr County Chicano Brotherhood, as well as the involvement of multiple corrupt sworn peace officers assigned in the Rio Grande Valley.
A total of 22 people have now been convicted as a result of this investigation, including a former Starr County Sheriff’s Office deputy. Ramon De La Cruz, son to former Justice of the Peace that shared his name, was working with the Rio Grande City Police Department when he was arrested. According to the complaint prepared by a special agent De La Cruz would stage drug seizures, provided police radios to the organization to help evade authorities and in at least one situation he disposed of weapon suspected to have been used in a crime.
In addition to the convictions authorities have seized three horse ranches as well as an American Quarter Horse race stallion named Jet Black Patriot and his breeding proceeds and awards.
The Beltran men were permitted to remain on bond pending their sentencing hearing, set for June 3, 2019. At that time, they each face up to life in federal prison and a possible $10 million maximum fine.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patti Hubert Booth is prosecuting the case.