McALLEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Two men who participated in a conspiracy to mail cocaine through the UPS shipping network pleaded guilty on Monday.
Fidencio Salinas Jr., 52, of Pharr, a former UPS driver, and Enrique Bernardo Gamez, 46, of Hidalgo, who operated a stash house, pleaded guilty on Monday afternoon.
Gamez operated a stash house near Wilbur E. Lucas Elementary School in Hidalgo.
In July 2022, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration received a tip that someone planned to rob him.
“We had information from a source that we work with that there was going to be a possible theft of illegal drugs that were stored at this residence,” DEA Special Agent Tyler Klassen said in August 2022, when he testified about the incident.
The DEA, which had been watching Gamez’s house, knew he lived with a woman — and she had a child. Agents decided to warn Gamez.
“And, you know, try to give him a heads-up,” Klassen said.
Klassen and an investigator with the Hidalgo County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force approached Gamez on July 26, 2022.
They explained the situation to Gamez and requested permission to search the house. Gamez agreed.
Agents discovered a small package of cocaine in the master bedroom, according to the criminal complaint against Gamez, and 57 more packages of cocaine in the attic.
DEA agents determined the packages in the attic contained nearly 126 pounds of cocaine.
Gamez also had $21,000 hidden in a bathroom near the master bedroom.
After the search, Gamez agreed to cooperate with the government, Klassen said, and the DEA decided not to arrest him right away. Gamez returned the next day and spoke with the DEA again.
Gamez said that someone he knew as “PIN” brought him a backpack that contained cocaine on July 26, hours before agents searched the house, according to an affidavit filed in a civil forfeiture case. The FBI verified his story by checking surveillance video.
At some point, however, Gamez stopped cooperating with the government. His attorney, Daniel Quirino Longoria of Edinburg, arranged for Gamez to self-surrender on July 29, three days after the DEA seized the cocaine.
A grand jury indicted Gamez, two former UPS drivers and at least five other people on federal drug trafficking charges.
The bare-bones indictment didn’t explain how the drug trafficking organization worked or the role each person played in the conspiracy.
Prosecutors, though, provided a brief summary in February 2023, when the former UPS drivers were arrested.
Gamez stored cocaine for the drug trafficking organization, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. Other members of the organization provided the cocaine to UPS employees, who sent packages of drugs to buyers.
Neither the indictment nor the news release included any information about who headed the organization or how the drug shipments were coordinated.
Gamez and Salinas, one of the former UPS drivers, pleaded guilty on Monday afternoon.
As part of his plea, Salinas admitted to accepting a package that contained 486 grams of cocaine and sending the package to Montana. Officers in Montana intercepted the package and seized the cocaine.
Salinas pleaded guilty to possession of less than 500 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute, which is punishable by 0 to 20 years in federal prison.
Gamez pleaded guilty to possession of 5 kilograms or more of cocaine with intent to distribute, which is punishable by 10 years to life in federal prison.
Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 14.