HOUSTON — On Sept. 7, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas and various other federal, state and local law enforcement authorities announced charges brought against 39 individuals under the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Houston Violent Crime Initiative.
The arrests were made after a federal grand jury returned seven separate indictments, with additional arrests made under four court-issued complaints. The defendants are each alleged to be part of larger organizations involved in large-scale drug trafficking or violent robberies. Many of the charged crimes involved the illegal possession or use of firearms.
The joint effort, first announced in September 2022, addresses violent crime by employing federal laws to prosecute gang members and associates in the southwest and southeast areas of Houston where appropriate. As part of the initiative, the Criminal Division has dedicated attorneys and other resources to prosecuting violent offenders and assisting intervention, prevention and reentry efforts to address the root causes of violent crime.
Among the charges are possession with intent to distribute cocaine, fentanyl, meth and other drugs; possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes; conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery; felon in possession of a firearm; and carjacking.
During the investigations and arrests, law enforcement officials seized 79 firearms, including three machine guns made by attaching a machine conversion device to a semi-automatic firearm and three stand-alone machine gun conversion devices not attached to firearms. Officials also seized a silencer, three ghost guns, an inert hand grenade and body armor. The drugs and related items authorities seized included approximately 248 kilograms of meth, including meth pills — some of which were laced with fentanyl; over 1.7 kilograms of fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and PCP, as well as four pill presses and over $110,000 in cash.
Among the agencies involved in the operation included HSI Houston; the Houston Police Department; FBI Houston; Drug Enforcement Administration Houston; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Houston; the Harris County Sheriff’s Office; the Texas Department of Public Safety; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the Harris County Constable’s Office (Precincts 3, 4 and 5); the Montgomery County Constable’s Office (Precinct 4); the U.S. Marshals Service; the Waller County Sheriff’s Office; the Cy-Fair Independent School District Police Department and the Texas Anti-Gang Center.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly Zenon, John Ganz and Carrie Wirsing are prosecuting the cases along with Trial Attorneys Sheila Lafferty, Ralph Paradiso, Anthony Kaplan and Jennifer Weinhold of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.
For more news and information on HSI’s efforts to aggressively investigate transnational gangs and violent crime in Southeast Texas follow us on Twitter @HSIHouston.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
Charges in indictments and complaints are merely allegations. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.