Brownsville resident sentenced to life in federal prison for drug trafficking

Local News

A judge’s gavel is shown in a file photo. (Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) – A Brownsville drug trafficking organizer will serve the rest of his life in prison for his role in trafficking more the 1,000 kilograms of cocaine involving $26 million in drug proceeds.  

Rafael Villanueva, 40, was ordered to serve the rest of his life in federal prison and also pay a $1,193,070 money judgment as repayment for the drug money he illegally laundered. 

“This sentencing is the result of a long-term complex investigation lead by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies who continue to serve and protect our public and national security,” said Deputy Special Agent in Charge Timothy Tubbs of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). 

Following a six-day trail, the jury deliberated for less than three hours before convicting Villanueva on January 28.  

During the trial, the jury heard from approximately 21 witness, one of which was only 16 years old when he started working for Villanueva.  

Several witnesses testified Villanueva hired them to move the cocaine north and the drug proceeds south.  

They detailed Villanueva’s role as head of a drug transportation group that moved cocaine from the Rio Grande Valley and on to cities throughout the United States.  

Villanueva was found guilty as charged by the jury for possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to do so, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, bulk cash smuggling and international money laundering. 

Villanueva has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. 

Several others have also been convicted for their respective roles. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Throwback Thursday