Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mission employee arraigned after drug bust

January 24,2006
Cari Hammerstrom
The Monitor


MISSION — A Mission city employee was arraigned in Peter Ormsby’s McAllen federal court Friday after U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents discovered enough cocaine at his home Wednesday night to fetch more than $800,000 in McAllen.

The DEA received information that drugs were stored at the residence of Mission water department billing manager Albert Hugo Peña, said Will Glaspy, DEA assistant special agent in charge for South Texas.

According to court documents, a "cooperating source" informed agents that drugs would be delivered to Peña’s house. The residence’s address is listed as Route 21 Box 111 C-2.

"Agents established surveillance in the immediate area and observed several individuals come and go from the residence for several hours," reads the complaint, which lays out the reasons for Peña’s arrest.

Glaspy then said that agents did what they call a "knock and talk," in which agents do not have a search warrant but ask to search the residence. Peña allowed the agents to come inside the house, he said.

"He showed us where the drugs were," Glaspy continued.

Agents seized 100.5 kilograms of cocaine. The street value of the drugs in McAllen is estimated at about $80 per gram, Glaspy said. This load, had it stayed in McAllen, and not been transported anywhere else where it would have been worth more, would have sold for slightly more than $800,000.

Glaspy said it was likely such a large load was headed north. Peña told DEA agents that his house was used as a holding center until other unknown individuals transferred the load elsewhere, the complaint reads. Investigators are conducting a follow-up investigation to see where the shipment was going.

Luis Cesar Vargas, a Mexican national, was also arrested in connection with the cocaine bust. He allegedly cited economic hardship as the reason for engaging in criminal activity. It is not clear at this time how Vargas and Peña are affiliated.

According to the city of Mission’s Web site, Peña graduated from Mission High School in 1979 and began working for the city in 1980. In March 1994, he became the water department’s billing manager, handling billing complaints.

Mission City Manager Julio Cerda said personnel issues prohibited him from discussing whether Peña was still employed with the city.

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Cari Hammerstrom covers law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach her at (956) 683-4424.
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