Jury finds leaders of drug rip crew guilty; sentencing set for December

After seven days of testimony, two men accused of terrorizing the Rio Grande Valley for nearly a year were found guilty by a federal jury, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Southern District of Texas.

On Friday, after deliberating for about five hours, jurors found Jose Miguel “El Mickey” Montemayor and Macrin Marin “Filtro” Cerda guilty of violent carjackings and home invasions, among other offenses in connection with their roles as part of a drug rip crew known as “Los Mickeys.”

Montemayor, 29, and Cerda, 33, were among more than 20 people snagged by federal authorities in connection with an investigation into the aforementioned drug rip crew that was responsible for multiple carjackings and home invasions in Hidalgo County in order to steal drugs and drug money from other drug traffickers.

During the trial, the government, through testimony, revealed Cerda and other crew members used law enforcement officials to further their drug trafficking activities. Two of those included former Donna Independent School District police officer Juan F. Mata, 40, of Donna, and former Hidalgo County Court-at-Law No. 6 bailiff Oscar De La Cruz, 53, of Pharr.

Jurors heard Mata conducted fraudulent traffic stops in order to allow members of the organization to steal cocaine hidden in load vehicles. De La Cruz produced fictitious court paperwork or queried sensitive law enforcement and judicial databases the organization would provide to sources of supply in order to retain and steal controlled substances in their possession.

During testimony, the jury heard about multiple crimes involving Cerda, Montemayor or both between July 2016 and about June 2017.

Three of those crimes were carjackings in McAllen and Pharr involving both men in an attempt to steal cocaine. In the second and third instances, rip crew members discharged firearms at the vehicles in order to obtain the controlled substances.

Testimony further revealed Cerda and Montemayor were involved in an attempted robbery which resulted in a shoot-out in a McAllen neighborhood. Another crime involved a home invasion, during which the criminals entered the wrong residence seeking drugs and terrorizing a family, including a female who was eight months pregnant, the release stated.

Cerda and Montemayor also served as scouts for a drug transaction involving more than 20 kilograms of cocaine Feb. 1, 2017, in McAllen.

Jurors heard that rip crew continued their activities when they also attempted to rob multiple kilograms of cocaine from a vehicle traveling through Mission and McAllen Feb. 27, 2017. Cerda and Montemayor discharged firearms at the targeted load vehicle in an attempt to steal the cocaine. Testimony revealed a bullet struck an occupant of the vehicle and required significant medical attention.

Cerda was further involved in the carjacking of a tractor trailer in rural Mission July 7, 2016, and a car chase and shootout Jan. 6, 2017. In the first instance, the rip crew threatened a family, including several juveniles, in order to steal a tractor trailer believed to conceal drug proceeds. During the car chase incident, the crew discharged firearms and rammed their vehicles into a vehicle before it ultimately crashed.

Jurors also heard testimony relating to a home invasion conducted in Mission April 3, 2017, when rip crew members, including Cerda, entered the residence of a suspected drug trafficker armed with firearms to steal more than $100,000 in drug proceeds.

The jury also heard that casings recovered from three of the crimes were fired from firearms recovered from Cerda’s vehicle.

The defense attempted to convince the jury that although the crimes had been committed, co-conspirators, specifically the ones who testified, lied about Cerda’s and Montemayor’s involvement.

Cerda and Montemayor’s convictions make that more than 25 co-conspirators who have been convicted in connection with the investigation. Mata and De La Cruz also pleaded guilty and were previously sentenced to 130 and 60 months, respectively.

The two men, who have been and remain in custody, are due back for sentencing in mid-December where they could each receive a maximum punishment of up to life in prison, the release states.