Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Francisco Javier Mecina Barrera, a/k/a “Angel,” pled guilty Friday to conspiring to import and distribute large quantities of methamphetamine and to using, carrying, and possessing a firearm which was brandished in furtherance of those drug crimes. The charges stem from Mecina Barrera’s leadership of a large-scale methamphetamine distribution and importation operation he called the “Cartel de Houston” — Spanish for “Houston Cartel” — or “CDH.” Mecina Barrera pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “The defendant was the leader of a drug and firearms trafficking organization that smuggled large numbers of firearms from the United States into Mexico. The organization then traded the firearms for hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine, which were distributed throughout the United States. Today’s guilty plea reaffirms our Office’s commitment to hold large-scale international drug and firearms traffickers accountable for their crimes.”
According to court filings and statements made in court proceedings:
From at least in or about March 2020 to at least in or about April 2021, Mecina Barrera was the leader of an international narcotics importation and distribution organization that imported hundreds of kilograms of crystal and liquid methamphetamine from Mexico into Texas and further distributed it throughout the United States, including to New York. Mecina Barrera called his group the Cartel de Houston, or “CDH,” because it was based in Houston and had ties to Mexico-based drug trafficking cartels.
CDH was also an international supplier of firearms. At Mecina Barrera’s direction, members of CDH smuggled numerous firearms into Mexico and delivered them to Mexico-based drug traffickers, often in exchange for methamphetamine that they then smuggled back into the United States for distribution. Mecina Barrera and other members of CDH also used firearms to threaten and intimidate a narcotics customer of CDH who owed Mecina Barrera money for drugs.
After establishing CDH, Mecina Barrera appointed co-defendant Adalid Cabrera Huato, a/k/a “China,” as his right-hand man in Houston, and Mecina Barrera recruited others, including co-defendants Giovanni De La Mora and Jaime Santillano, to acquire and transport numerous guns from the United States into Mexico, trade them for substantial quantities of methamphetamine, and transport the drugs into the United States, where they would distribute them throughout the country, including to the Bronx, New York. Mecina Barrera provided his co-conspirators with vehicles and instructed them on how to hide the guns and drugs in the fuel tank to avoid detection. Mecina Barrera also utilized a Mexico-based religious figure known as “Lucifer” to bless the CDH’s members and drugs as they were crossing the border.
Mecina Barrera, 31, of Michoacan, Mexico, and Houston, Texas, pled guilty to (i) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine; (ii) conspiracy to illegally import methamphetamine into the United States; and (iii) use, carrying, and possession of a firearm in connection with, and in furtherance of, the narcotics conspiracy and the narcotics importation conspiracy, which was brandished. The charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 17 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The statutory minimum and maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Cabrera Huato, De La Mora, and Santillano previously pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Cabrera Huato is scheduled to be sentenced on June 23, 2023. De La Mora and Santillano were previously sentenced by Judge Marrero to 90 months and 86 months in prison, respectively.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations – BEST, the Drug Enforcement Administration- New York Division, the New York City Police Department, and the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Mr. Williams also thanked the Houston Police Department and the DEA Houston Division for their invaluable assistance in this investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jane Y. Chong, Michael R. Herman, and Mitzi S. Steiner, with the assistance of Paralegal Specialist Jacqueline Hauck, are in charge of the prosecution.