High Ranking Los Zetas Plaza Boss Heads to Federal Prison for Multi-Year Drug Conspiracy

HOUSTON – Jose Manuel Saldivar-Farias aka “Z-31” or “El Borrado” has been ordered to federal prison for his role in a seven-year conspiracy that resulted in an estimated 40,000 kilograms of marijuana imported into the United States from Mexico, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. Saldivar-Farias, 29, of Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Mexico, entered a guilty plea July 26, 2017, and admitted he and his co-conspirators coordinated the importation multi-kilogram loads of marijuana on a monthly basis.

Today, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon formally accepted the plea and imposed a 30-year term of imprisonment.

Saldivar-Farias was initially arrested on immigration charges related to his illegal presence in the U.S. in March 2015.

In early 2015, Pedro Perez-Ocampo, 39, of Estado de Guerrero, Mexico, and Osiel Hernandez-Martinez, 29, of Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Mexico, had obtained permission from Saldivar-Farias and paid him the “piso” or “tax” to transport approximately one ton of marijuana from Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Mexico, into the United States across Falcon Lake by boat. On the night of March 12, 2015, they were at the Lake’s shore preparing to load the marijuana onto boats when they encountered Saldivar-Farias. He was fleeing from the Mexican military as they were attempting to capture him. Saldivar-Farias jumped into Hernandez-Martinez’s boat and ordered him to take him across to the United States.

While crossing Falcon Lake, Saldivar-Farias instructed everyone in the boat to lie about his identity in the event they were apprehended, to deny association with the Zetas and to tell U.S. authorities that he was “Carlos Cruz-Jimenez.” Shortly after crossing the lake, law enforcement apprehended the men. At that time, Saldivar-Farias identified himself as “Carlos Cruz-Jimenez” and claimed he traveled to the United States to find employment.

Today, Saldivar-Farias admitted his true identity was Jose Manuel Saldivar-Farias and that he was a Zeta plaza boss and then regional commander of the northern region of Mexico to include the states of Coahuilla, Taumalipas and Nuevo Leon, Mexico, as well as Zapata, Texas. As such, he was in charge of all narcotics moving through the area. Throughout the conspiracy, Saldivar-Farias and other Zeta members and associates, secured, maintained and regulated the transportation routes used to import marijuana from Mexico to the United States across Falcon Lake. Saldivar-Farias charged and collected a “piso” or “tax” for permission to store and transport marijuana and other controlled substances through the transportation routes and areas he controlled. Individuals who did not pay the “piso” or “tax” faced a potential consequence and potentially would be threatened, beaten, kidnapped, tortured or murdered.

To date, 18 defendants have been indicted for their roles in the conspiracy. Fourteen have been convicted, while the remaining four are fugitives.

The FBI and Border Patrol conducted the investigation with the assistance of Drug Enforcement Administration and Texas Department of Public Safety. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Casey N. MacDonald and Anibal Alaniz are prosecuting the case.

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