MCALLEN, Texas-The drug trafficking trial of a pee wee football coach, who is accused of helping lead a drug empire that even had police protection, provided great insight into how drugs are smuggled into the U.S. and about the world of those who involved.
Witness testimony in the trial of Omar FIdencio Rojas shows that the world of drug smuggling in South Texas includes witch doctors, spiritual advisers, horse races and Mexican drug cartels.
Rojas is facing a possible life sentenced for his role as the right hand man of Weslaco drug boss Tomas “El Gallo” Gonzalez, a Mexican Narco who ran ton quantities of marijuana and cocaine from South Texas to Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina and other states throughout the nation. Gonzalez is also the same Mexican drug lord who led to the downfall of former Hidalgo County Sheriff, his chief of staff and one of his top commanders.
On Monday morning, Omar Fidencio Rojas sat by his attorney Ray Marino as Assistant U.S. Attorney James Sturgis told jurors about the vast drug trafficking network that would use trailers. Such vehicles were filled with produce to conceal the tons of drugs being shipped to metropolitan areas where the value of the drugs was much higher.
“That is why people do these things, they want the money,” Sturgis said in his opening statements.
During the first day of testimony a number of his former associates took the stand to describe his role in the criminal enterprise.
Rojas had been a used car salesman at a local dealership but lost his job when he took a minivan from Gonzalez during a trade-in and the vehicle turned out to be stolen, said Alberto “El Pajaro or Bird” Gomez, a lifelong friend and neighbor of the Mexican drug lord known as El Gallo.
“Tomas felt bad,” Gomez said about the time his friend learned of Rojas’ unemployment. “He told him to come and at first he had him doing legal thing. He took care of the race horse stables… Tomas observed him and once he trusted him he brought him in.”
Rojas, who volunteers as a pee wee football coach and a girl’s basketball coach eventually took over Gomez’s position after he went to work for another drug lord following a money dispute. One of the tasks that Rojas oversaw was the packaging of marijuana where the bundles were wrapped through more than a dozen layers of saran wrap with layers of grease, oil and other chemicals in between to help create an airtight seal that helps mask the smell of the drugs, the drug trafficker testified.
The drugs were then loaded into crates of vegetables and the covered with more produce in an effort to fool police and Border Patrol agents at the road checkpoints, Gomes said. He added that before using produce, Gonzalez had been using the U.S. Postal Service to mail out bundles of drugs throughout the nation.
Another smuggler named Hector “Nico” Rodriguez testified about how he went from being a street level drug dealer in high school to moving large quantities of marijuana for Gonzalez and in the course of business dealt with Rojas on a regular basis.
Before teaming up with Gonzalez, Rodriguez had worked independently getting his drugs from a relative through marriage that was part of the Gulf Cartel. Rodriguez ended up meeting Gonzales through the man’s father, Don Horacio Gonzalez, a “curandero” or witch doctor who would bless the drug loads before trying to fool authorities.
“I would go to him for spiritual advice,” said Rodriguez who happened to have a large tattoo on his neck that read “In God we trust.” “Everything he said came to pass. That is why I would go to him.”
Jurors are expected to hear in the coming days the testimony of Gonzalez and the former sheriff’s commander as well as eight other drug traffickers from the same case who have all pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal.
Follow Ildefonso Ortiz on Twitter @ildefonsoortiz.