BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A 33-year-old Houston woman has been found guilty of two counts of drug trafficking, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.
Judge Rolando Olvera deliberated for three days before convicting Brenda Banessa Leal of one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and one count of possession with intent to distribute. The bench trial began Feb. 27 and concluded March 1.
During trial, the judge heard evidence that since at least 2018, Leal assisted several family members who were part of a drug trafficking organization. She helped transport narcotics, mainly cocaine, from Mexico to Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. The drugs were hidden in the rear differential in tractor trailers.
Several members of the organization reside in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon, Mexico where Leal has lived the majority of her adult life. She also assisted family members in transporting bulk cash money, ammunition and weapons to Mexico.
The court evidence about text and whatsapp messages between co-conspirators, jail call recordings as well as videos detailing Leal’s criminal actions.
The investigation revealed that between February 2021 and June 2021, Leal was the logistics coordinator of the drug trafficking organization. In that role, she coordinated drivers, dealers and cover loads on this side of the border. In June 2021, while Leal and co-conspirators were preparing to unload a tractor truck that contained approximately 33 kilograms of cocaine, the organization got robbed (“ripped”) of the cocaine by another drug trafficking organization.
Authorities apprehended that group shortly after stealing the cocaine from Leal.
The defense attempted to convince the judge that Leal did not have knowledge of the cocaine that was hidden in the tractor trailer and was simply a victim of the “rip crew.” Judge Olvera did not believe those claims and found Leal guilty as charged.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS – Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force conducted the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation with the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alejandra Andrade and Ed Rodriguez are prosecuting the case.