They are accused of quietly smuggling hundreds of tons of Mexican marijuana into Houston for 21 years, but the lives of more than two dozen alleged conspirators seemed as ordinary as their plot was bold, says the city’s Chronicle. They include a truck driver, a mason, a construction worker, a firefighter, an auto mechanic, an expectant mother and a grandfather married to the same woman for 31 years. They owned homes in Houston, raised their families, paid their bills and drove American-made pickup trucks.
“This is a large, long-term, well-established trafficking conspiracy,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Craft said of an alleged scheme that stretched from 1988 to last week. “That these individuals haven’t been arrested before is a compliment to the sophistication of their scheme.” Inside a federal courtroom in Beaumont this week, family packed the gallery and poured into the hallway as they heard for the first time what federal agents had to say about a conglomerate of 26 people, including brothers, uncles, nephews, aunts, cousins and longtime friends. “They are all family, and you aren’t going to trust anyone outside the family,” said Kenneth Crowe, a narcotics agent.