San Antonio, TX - Federal, state and local authorities have arrested eight individuals on federal drug trafficking charges, including 41-year-old Texas Syndicate Lieutenant Hilario Nieto who previously received a pardon from President Barack Obama, announced U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer; Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Steven S. Whipple, Houston Division; and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw.
Those arrested Tuesday include: Hilario Nieto (aka “Shorty”) of San Antonio; 31-year-old Daniel Castaneda of San Antonio; 29-year-old Joe Sanchez of San Antonio; 40-year-old Melissa Molina of San Antonio; 31-year-old Deanna Diaz of San Antonio; 56-year-old former Texas Mexican Mafia member Martin Reynosa of San Antonio; and 58-year-old Maria Rivas of San Antonio. Texas Syndicate Lieutenant Danny Rivas (aka “Pelon,” “Klumzee”), 41 of San Antonio, was previously arrested on this indictment.
An eight-count federal indictment charges the above-named defendants with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin. In addition, Danny Rivas is charged with two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Castaneda and Molina are also charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. The indictment also charges Reynosa and Maria Rivas with five counts of possession with intent to distribute heroin.
The indictment alleges that the defendants have conspired since June 2019 to distribute methamphetamine and heroin in the San Antonio area. Search warrants executed in conjunction with arrest warrants resulted in the seizure of methamphetamine, heroin and two firearms.
In 2004, Nieto was sentenced to 248 months in federal prison on drug charges in the Western District of Texas. Scheduled to be released in 2021, Nieto was pardoned by President Barack Obama in 2016. The pardon was effective August 2018.
“It is truly appalling that a man who was given a Presidential pardon for his past offenses and released from federal prison chose to flout that generous gift after being released from federal prison and resume gang-related drug dealing in the San Antonio community,” said U.S. Attorney Sofer.
“With these arrests, DEA and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners have dismantled an organization responsible for supplying large quantities of methamphetamine and heroin to communities in the San Antonio region,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Whipple. “Methamphetamine and heroin trafficking, along with the associated crimes, are particularly destructive to the quality of life in our communities. DEA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to target and eliminate these criminal organizations and hold them accountable for the destruction they cause.”
The DEA and DPS Criminal Investigations conducted this investigation with assistance from IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshals Service, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, Seguin Police Department, Terrell Hills Police Department and the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation called Operation Blended Familia. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
Upon conviction of the methamphetamine related charges, the defendants face between 10 years and life in federal prison. Upon conviction of the heroin-related charges, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison.
All of the defendants remain in federal custody. Those arrested on Tuesday are expected to have their detention hearings in U.S. Magistrate court in San Antonio beginning next week.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Ella Spears is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
It is important to note that 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.