Salvage yard owner gets 30 years for heroin trafficking

January 19, 2011 12:45:42 PM PST
A Houston salvage yard owner was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison without parole for trafficking heroin into the United States from Mexico, the justice department announced Wednesday.

Guatemalan native Joel Linares-Soberanis, 36, was convicted of conspiracy to import heroin and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute the heroin in October, according to a U.S. Department of Justice statement. He already had pleaded guilty to being an alien in possession of a firearm.

In November 2009, border agents discovered 17.8 kilograms of heroin concealed in a vehicle driven by Soberanis' co-conspirator as he entered the United States through a Brownsville, Texas, Port of Entry. Detectives later discovered that the heroin was being driven to Sobernais, who had paid for the transportation of the illicit drug from Mexico into Houston.

Authorities also discovered that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also was investigating him and his salvage yard for possible firearms violations. In March, detectives conducted a search warrant at the salvage yard and Sobernais' home, which resulted in his arrest.

The driver of the heroin-filled truck, Felix Dalas Ortega, also was arrested in connection to the conspiracy. He pleaded guilty on Jan. 13, 2010, to possession with intent to distribute heroin.

The vehicle's lien holder, Fernando Argenis Huezo, also was co-conspirator involved in the trafficking. He was arrested the same day as Sobernais. He pleaded guilty on June 3 to conspiracy to import heroin and making a false statement on a firearms record, while the driver of the vehicle in which the heroin was found.

Linares-Sobernais has been in custody since his arrest and will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility where he will serve out his sentence. Sobranis' 30-year sentence for all three charges will be followed by a five-term of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.

Huezo and Ortega are pending sentencing on Feb. 22, 2011.