Final sentence handed down in meth case

McALLEN — A Houston man will spend the next three decades in federal prison as punishment for his role in a meth smuggling ring.

Oscar Diaz-Piñeda was the last of three men to be sentenced Wednesday in connection with a drug trafficking ring that moved liquid methamphetamine across the border and into the United States, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Magistrate Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Diaz-Piñeda to 30 years for his role in the drug trafficking operation that spanned across the border, which according to court records began in Mexico and ended up at the 27-year-old’s apartment in Houston.

Diaz-Piñeda’s accomplices — Mexican national Jonathan Ricardo Alvarez, 24, who lived in Mission; and El Salvadorian national Melvin Noel Vasquez, 33, who lived in Houston — were sentenced in August to more than 16 years and 12 years, respectively.

The three men pleaded guilty in May to one count of possession with intent to distribute 500 grams of meth; in exchange, federal prosecutors dismissed the remaining federal conspiracy to a sell/distribute charge, court records show.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, meth was imported from Mexico in liquid form was crystallized upon crossing into the country — this at an apartment in Houston occupied by Diaz-Piñeda.

“… In handing down the sentence, Judge Alvarez noted that Diaz maintained a ‘conversion lab’ at an apartment in Houston where liquid methamphetamine imported from Mexico was crystallized for further distribution within the area,” the release states.

During his plea hearing, Alvarez admitted to setting up a drug deal with a person later revealed to be an undercover agent via telephone last December.

A couple of days later, both Vasquez and Diaz-Piñeda met with the undercover agent in Houston to deliver 5 kilograms of methamphetamine on behalf of Alvarez, where federal agents arrested Vasquez and Diaz-Pineda and seized the meth.

Alvarez was subsequently arrested on April 16 in South Texas, the release states.

All three men have been and will remain in custody and are expected to face deportation proceedings following their sentences, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Read the indictment.