HOUSTON – Three Houston men have been ordered to federal prison following their convictions in a $1 million narcotics trafficking conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Robert Ashleigh Whitten, 38, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. Lalo Buddy Perez, 27, and Michael Anthony Patran, 29, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Today, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake ordered Perez to serve a 135-month term of imprisonment, while Whitten and Patran received respective sentences of 120 and 60 months in prison. Perez and Whitten will serve five years of supervised release following completion of their prison terms. Patran will serve three years of supervised release.
In 2016, law enforcement personnel began investigating a drug trafficking organization distributing significant quantities of cocaine in the Houston area. Agents quickly confirmed that Patran and Perez were both major suppliers and distributors within the Houston and Magnolia, Texas, community. Through the course of the investigation, agents also confirmed that Patran and Perez conspired with Whitten to distribute cocaine and the proceeds from the narcotics trafficking.
On Sept. 6, 2016, authorities conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle Perez was driving with Patran as passenger. At that time, law enforcement discovered a blue Puma gym bag containing 20 individually-wrapped packages of U.S. currency, which totaled approximately $237,475. They also found an AK-47 assault rifle and Walther P99 pistol.
Shortly thereafter, law enforcement agents observed Whitten at a gas station and contacted him. He lied to the police about his identity and attempted to flee, but was captured immediately. Upon a search of his Dodge Ram truck, authorities found more than 18 kilograms of cocaine and approximately $666,638.00 in his vehicle. Some of the cocaine was open and spilled into a cooler which caused an odor that permeated the vehicle.
All three men have been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julie N. Searle and Rick Bennett are prosecuting the case.