Firearm, drug bust nabs 22

Published on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 22:36 - Written by Staff Reports

A 20-month narcotics and firearms trafficking investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety ended Tuesday with the indictment of 22 people, according to a news release. 

Sixteen people, most of whom were in Anderson County, were charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, a first-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, according to DPS.

Six people face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession with possession of firearms and intent to distribute methamphetamine.

The investigation began in May 2012 when the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office received information about a possible drug trafficking organization within the county. The office then enacted a collaborative effort between local, state and federal agencies, whose undercover agents and investigators were able to purchase narcotics and firearms from the people who were indicted. Key members of the trafficking ring were identified through the investigation, according to the release.

An Anderson County grand jury granted sealed indictments against three people on Jan. 2. Eighteen more were arrested on Tuesday.

The joint investigation required the assistance of the DPS Criminal Investigation Division agents, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, Anderson County District Attorney’s Office, Palestine Police Department, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Marcela Morales Aguilar, 38; Carrie Elizabeth Clark, 32; Michael Lance Collins, 35; Daniel Galacia, 29; Juan “Chuy” Jesus Morales Gante, 21; and Hilario Escamila Gonzalez Sr., 41 were charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Gante also was charged with possession of a firearm while illegally in the United States.

Timothy Mark Bowling, 51; Travis Brotherton, 57; Holly Rene Miller, 38; Bridget Anita Ferguson, 33; Larry Lynn Mills, 65; Gary Wayne Parker Jr., 49; Amber Nicole Priehs, 23; Linda Kay Marr Smith, 53; Randall Keith Speed, 30; Jerry Wayne Turner, 47; Gilberto Estrada Vinaja, 28; and Jon Dee Brown, 39, were charged with engaging in criminal activity.

Four people suspected of being involved in the ring were not found. Anyone with information on their whereabouts is asked to contact Anderson County Crime Stoppers at 903-729-8477. They are Raul Hernandez Gomez, 39; Bruce James Hogue, 49; Brittney Estridge Hawthorne, 25; and Jennifer Nacole Finley, 29.