Federal agents say they've nabbed nearly two dozen people connected to a major drug trafficking ring in Central Texas.
U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton presented the long list of indictments at a news conference in downtown Austin on Thursday.
"Most of what we're seeing, the distribution points that we're seeing are in the Austin, San Antonio and Central Texas area which includes some small towns like Marble Falls, Burnet and Pflugerville," Sutton said. "There was not a great deal of drugs confiscated in this case. I know there was some. This is a case that's been going on for a long to determine who has been moving the dope and a lot of it we don't have."
Investigators say the probe has gone on for well over two years and they've been able to confiscate more about $10-million and seven vehicles which they believe were used in trafficking narcotics.
"This is an illustration of how working together, law enforcement is making a difference. And more importantly, for us here in Travis County, having the prosecution at the federal level where we know there will be greater accountability," said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.
Sutton says those arrested include:
George Lewis Escamilla, Sr., 56, of Austin; Omero Escamilla, 45, of Austin; Michael Angelo Escamilla, 33, of Austin; George Lewis Escamilla, Jr., 32, of Austin; Irene Escamilla, 33, of Junction; Mario Duran Martinez, 27, of Austin; Eddy Kahookele, 23, of Pflugerville; Nina Kovars Ehrlich, 44, of Austin; Cheryl Ring, 22, of Austin; Shawn Duran Cope, 28, of Austin; Robin Martin Arnold; 38, of Burnet; John Henry Coleman IV, 46, of Horseshoe Bay; Kendra Blythe, 43, of Pflugerville; Debra Peals, 44, of Austin; Marshall J. Kelly, 46, of Crossett, AR; Abrosio Cano, 33, of Pflugerville; Liliana Moreno, 22, of Austin;
and warrants have been issued for:
Arturo Escamilla, 31, of Austin; Leigh Anna Hensley McGrath, 21, of Austin; Mistie Farmer, 34, of Cedar Park; Mario Alberto Hernandez, 21, of Cedar Park; and Rhonda Turner, 47, of Lago Vista.
"They have an organization of people who distribute in different locations. The drugs are snuck across the border to a safe house where they are then distributed to people they trust to go to other cities and then they distribute them throughout the line," Sutton says.
The U.S. Attorney's office says if the people indicted are convicted, each defendant faces between 10 years to life in federal prison.
(hear the entire Thursday afternoon news conference below; you may need Windows Media Player 11 to hear it)