Houston-Galveston drug trafficking sweep leads to 23 arrests of alleged cartel members

As part of a recent law enforcement operation spanning Houston, Galveston, and several other states, 23 individuals were arrested for drug trafficking. The indictment, comprising 50 counts, accuses these individuals of involvement in trafficking cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine, allegedly under the direction of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

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The charges allege that the accused operated in and outside the Southern District of Texas from December 28, 2018, through April 22, 2020, smuggling drugs from Mexico into the United States. 

The indictment points to Roque Zamudio-Mendoza, 52, from Mexico, as the primary source of these drugs smuggled into the U.S. Other alleged co-conspirators are said to have distributed these narcotics in various cities, including New Orleans, Pensacola, Atlanta, Nashville, and Chicago.

Law enforcement agencies conducted a coordinated operation across multiple jurisdictions, arresting 20 individuals and the three already in custody. Two individuals have since passed away, while Zamudio-Mendoza and 15 others remain at large, with warrants out for their arrest.


Some accused have already appeared in federal court, while others are scheduled for hearings in Galveston on April 2 or Houston on April 3. The indictment, returned on December 14, 2023, also aims to seize illegal proceeds estimated at $10 million.

During the arrests, authorities seized 550 kilograms of meth, 249 kilograms of cocaine, 34 kilograms of heroin, five kilograms of pentobarbital, and 22,600 fentanyl-laced pills. Also confiscated were firearms, luxury watches, and cash, including $190,000 seized during a traffic stop in Porter.

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All defendants face charges of conspiracy to possess drugs with intent to distribute, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. They are also charged with various other offenses, including conspiracy to launder money and possession with intent to distribute drugs.

The arrests culminate a 63-month investigation dubbed Operation Rainmaker, led by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). The operation involved collaboration between various law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service, Houston Police Department, Galveston Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth Cusick and Rick Hanes are prosecuting the case. It's important to note that an indictment represents formal charges and does not serve as evidence. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.