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Weekly Newspaper and Tourism Guide for Ward County Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas

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Thursday, August 13, 1998

Private EMS on county agenda

Ward County Commissioners are scheduled to act Monday, Aug.
17, on proposals that, if approved, would privatize
emergency medical and ambulance services in the county.

County Judge Sam G. Massey says contracting the current
county ambulance service to a private company is designed to
provide higher quality emergency services at less cost to
the taxpayers.

It is part of the continuing effort at Ward Memorial
Hospital, which has operated the ambulances, to bring fiscal
assets under control while at the same time hospital
services are enhanced.

Assuming no problems, the county judge reports a private
ambulance service may be operating in Ward County by Jan. 1.

In the special meeting of the Commissioners Court on Monday
at which the ambulance decision will be considered, Ward
Memorial officials also are scheduled to present a proposed
budget at a commissioners budget workshop.

Four private emergency medical services firms have presented
proposals. Each has suggested annual payments to be made by
the county plus various other services which vary from
proposal to proposal.

"This is why this is not a straight bottom line issue," says
Massey. "We will look at the bottom line but we also are
checking what each of the companies has offered in their
proposals. This is why we asked for proposals and not bids.
Asking for proposals allows us the flexibility to negotiate
an evenutal contract in the best interests of Ward County

Commissioners also are checking references.

North Texas Medical Transportation Inc. of Sulphur Springs,
Southern Ambulance Inc., $150,000.
EMS Systems Inc of Levelland, $136,410 on one option
suggested; $127,782 on a second option.
Zillmer Inc. of Pampa, $145,970.

Building permits double

Building permits issued so far in 1998 have doubled the
value of building permits issued a year ago, according to
the August Building Permit Report released by City
Inspector Bobby Sinclair.

Sinclair reports that the total value of permits issued so
far this year equals $1,332,411 compared with $665,664 a
year ago. August building permits, he says, total $90,715.

The monthly report's permits to build are lead by the
commercial section where the totals are $78,615, including
$50,000 in new construction and $28,515 in additions and

Sinclair reports the $50,000 permit was issued to Double D
Self Storage for construction of storage buildings at 209
South Calvin Avenue.

Most of the $28,515 for additions and repairs under the
commercial permit section was accounted for by Cecil White
Operating, which obtained building permits of $20,000 to
build a fence and driveway at 201 Loop 464 and $1,000 for
pump buildings at the same address. Lowe's Supermarket was
granted a $6,500 building permit to construct a sign at 601
West Interstate 20.

In the residential category, the city building inspector
says building permits totaled $12,200, all for additions and
repairs. Residential building permits included one for
$7,000 issued to Maria Venegas for an addition at 311 West
Tenth Street, one for $3,500 issued to Fred Oyerbides for a
back porch at 1405 South Gary Avenue; and one for $2,000 to
Debra Silvas to move a mobile home at 805 North Alice

Sharp-eyed deputy foils dope cartel

Ward County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Price was checking an open
gate that early morning of Friday, Jan. 24, 1997 Northeast
of the Pecos River.

Price had just pulled his patrol car off Route 1776, better
known in this era of continuing border war with illicit drug
smugglers as Cocaine Highway.

"I saw this pickup coming across the Pecos River heading
North," recalls Price. " The vehicle was being driven
erratically. She would speed up and slow down. There were no
taillights and then the taillights would flash when she
hit the brakes."

Price thought the driver needed help and pulled in behind
the truck. It was then he smelled more than 400 pounds of
marijuana loaded in the back of the lurching pickup.

Says Price: "The smell of the marijuana like to have knocked
me out."

No attempts had been made to disguise the contraband. The
pickup did not attempt to drive away.

It just kept moving slowly down the road. Price radioed
fellow officer Gene Baker who he knew was ahead and asked
for an intercept.

From the time Price first saw the pickup until he and
Sheriff's Deputy Baker stopped it about 4:52 a.m. at 1776
and State Route 18 South of Monahans, the dope laden (22
bales of marijuana weighing 431 pounds ) truck did not
reach more than 40 miles an hour.

Price and Baker did not know it then; but before sunrise, he
and fellow sheriff's deputy Gene Baker, now employed by a
pipeline company, would ignite a massive international
investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that
would bring down a billion dollar a year illicit drug ring
that linked, according to court documents, staging points in
Mexico's Chihuahua state and Odessa from which marijuana,
heroin and cocaine were directed into state, regional and
national networks in the United States..

Price did not know it then but he and Baker triggered the
decline and fall of El Mulato Cartel, if federal
prosecutors have their way. And so far, they have had their

Indictments in the case against more than a score of cartel
members were handed up by a federal grand jury for the
Western District of Texas on July 9, more than a year after
that initial arrest by Ward County Sheriff Ben Keele's
officers. Guilty pleas from 15 of those indicted had been
accepted by Senior U.S. District Judge Lucius Bunton of
Pecos by Friday, Aug. 7. Sentencing is pending
pre-sentencing investigations.

Pretrial maneuvering by defense attorneys and prosecutors
continues for the more than a dozen other men and women
charged with being part of the ring.

Price says: "This was a big dope cartel."

It was a very big cartel.

It looped in overlapping tables of organization, couriers,
soldiers and vehicles from Gracielo Gardea-Carrasco's
hacienda at El Mulato; over the residence of the Ocons in
Presidio, another staging point; to Odessa 150 miles away
where the product was stored and sold before transportation
to various points in the United States for sale.

"Purchasers of the controlled substances sometimes travelled
to this area (Odessa) to examine and/or take delivery of the
smuggled controlled substances," according to the indictment
released by the federal grand jury.

El Mulato Cartel survived on American dollars - dollars from
the addicts on American streets which became mordida dollars
in both Mexico and the United States, dollars for lawyers,
dollars to launder in still mostly unidentified legitimate
businesses on both sides of the border for the cartel's
coffers. El Mulato Cartel survived on dollars and
intimidation fueled by money and fear. Some of those
indicted are charged because of attempts to coerce
witnesses, some of whom are now under federal protection.

The organization's base - according to court documents,
interviews and intelligence reports - was El Mulato in
Chihuahua just across the Rio Grande from Radford. Some of
the marijuana came from Don Tonio's fields near Camargo in
Chihuahua. Don Tonio was associated with Hector Holguin,
aka Torin. Holguin moved across the border with ease
smuggling here, collecting money there for Don Tonio and
others in the business.

El Mulato Cartel was a family affair Almost everyone
involved was related either by blood or marriage in the
enterprise whose nerve center was El Mulato.

It was here Gracielo Gardea-Carrasco lived. He; wife,
Pinqui; son and others worked the smuggling trade as their
families have done for generations. Brother, Jose
Gardea-Carrasco, operated the Ojinaga and Odessa divisions.
Juan Manuel Bugarin, called Buga, the father of Josie Ann
Gardea, anchored Odessa for the family. It was in Odessa he
"stored, counted, transported and delivered controlled

Israel Pena Ocon, the one called Shorty; wife, Margarita;
and daughter Norma were the family's Presidio connection.
Margarita Ocon is the sister of Gracielo Gardea-Carrasco,
Jose Gardea-Carrasco and Domina Gardea.

Exactly how many workers were involved in Gardea-Carrasco
family business still is only a matter of conjecture, even
after a year's investigation by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation started by the Ward County Sheriff's office.
Some insiders believe the family itself could not number its
retainers. They did not keep payroll records.

But there were couriers, communications specialists, scouts,
soldiers to protect couriers and the fields and the
warehouses and the transport vehicles in two countries.

Investigators say the language of the indictment is
conservative when it says:

"Defendants Gracielo Gardea-Carrasco and Raul Gardea-Lima,
aided and abetted by the other defendants named in this
indictment, and others, established, maintained promoted,
carried on and managed a business enterprise which engaged
in the international smuggling and trafficking of controlled
substances, including marijuana, heroin and cocaine, in
violation of the laws of the United States and the state of
Texas. The operations of the enterprise routinely involved
interstate and foreign commerce. The core business purpose
of the enterprise was to make money by distributing
controlled substances for profit."

It operated with only a little hurt here and there until
that time after midnight when a courier drove a 1988 pickup
filled with marijuana across the Pecos River into Ward
County and met Sheriff Keele's deputies.

Keele, as he said then, "simply does not tolerate dope
traffic in Ward County."

The Ward County sheriff's office knew they had a cougar by
the tail when they first talked with the driver of the
pickup. It was then they decided to ask federal
investigators for help because the state was not in a
position to follow up with the kind of international
criminal conspiracy they identified in that old pickup truck.

FBI agents began to probe and look and listen for more than
a year.

When it was over the case that began in Ward County was
bringing down an international smugglers conspiracy.

Price recalls Odessa lawyer Tony Chavez, who eventually
would plead guilty to charges filed as a result of the
cartel investigation.

"Tony called about the courier the morning we arrested her,"
says the sheriff's deputy. "I said, 'Tony, how did you find
out so fast?' "

Before the case began to near its end, Tony Chavez, attorney
at law, needed a lawyer himself, Gerry Goldstein, the San
Antonio counselor who is recognized as one of the best
defense attorneys in Texas.

City sets budget hearing

Monahans City Council Tuesday, Aug. 11, set Tuesday, Aug.
25, for a public hearing on the city's proposed $4,440,031
budget for the 1998-99 fiscal year.

That figure represents a five percent increase, $214,176,
over the 1998-98 fiscal year.

The public hearing will be held at the regular 3 p.m.
meeting of the council in the council chambers.

Council members have until Sept.. 8 to adopt the budget
under state statutes.

Under the proposed budget presented to the council by City
Manager David Mills, there will be a minuscule, about a
ten-thousandth of a cent, decrease in the city's property
tax rate and a two-cent increase in water rates per thousand
gallons used after the base minimum rate of $8 a month for
the first 3,000 gallons.

Mills notes that the property tax rate decreases in
proportion to the collection of sales taxes.

For example, sales tax collections in 1997 allowed the city
to reduce the ad valorem tax rate from 48 cents for each
$100 of property valuation to the current 29.655 cents.

Under the proposed budget, the new property tax rate would
be 29.614 cents for each $100 in property value.

Mills told the council:

"This budget proposes a minor increase in water rates. The
current water rate is $8 minimum and 88 cents per thousand
over 3,000 gallons. The new rate would increase the per
thousand gallon rate from 88 cents to 90 cents per thousand
gallons. The $8 minimum would remain the same.

"Sewer and sanitation rates will remain at the current
levels for the 98-99 fiscal year."

The city manager said the Monahans utility rates "are some
of the lowest, if not the lowest, especially water rates, in
West Texas. Rates for wholesale commercial/industrial use,
which are for non irrigation or governmental purposes, may
also be adjusted at some time during the budget year."

Among the capital expenditures proposed is $30,000 to finish
equipping the city's dozen police cars with video cameras,
$50,000 for an emergency alert siren system and $105,000 for
the purchase of three dump trucks.

Pilots target Monahans fly-in

The Monahans Airport Advisory Board, City of Monahans and
Monahans Main Street will host a Breakfast Fly-In, Saturday,
Aug. 15, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m..

Pilots from a 200 mile radius of the Ward County seat have
been invited to fly in to Roy Hurd Memorial Airport for
breakfast served by the Wagonmasters.

Airport Advisory Board Chairman, H.A. Lee, and other Board
Members attend Fly-Ins around West Texas. They say they
are anxious to show off the airport in Monahans.

"It is a great opportunity to promote our airport and let
people know that the Monahans Airport is one of the finest
in this part of the state," says Lee

Members of the Monahans Radio Control Airplane Club will
also be on hand to display their aircraft.

There will be no charge for breakfast to registered pilots.

The public is invited to come out and enjoy breakfast for $4
a plate, says Suzi Blair, project manager for Monahans Main

Four extended calling areas on ballot

Citizens are urged to cast positive ballots for adding four
areas to the Monahans extended call network, says Suzi
Blair, the coordinator for the campaign.

Placing an area in a city's extended local call net means
calls to that area are considered toll free, local calls.

Blair, project manager for Monahans Main Street, notes it
will cost nothing extra per month to include Fort Stockton,
Kermit, Pecos and Terminal (which includes the Midland
Airport and Medical Center Hospital) in the extended local
calling area of the Ward County seat.

But it does require a majority of the city's telephone
subscribers to vote "yes" on the ballots they start
receiving in the mail today, Thursday, Aug. 13. Ballots must
be returned to the Public Utility Commission at the address
noted on the ballot no later than Friday, Aug. 28. The
ballots were mailed to Monahans telephone subscribers on
Wednesday, Aug. 12.

If the vote is positive, the four new areas would be added
to Monahans extended local calling service sometime after
Jan. 1.

"We urge everyone to cast their ''yes' votes and mail the
ballot as soon as possible after it is received," says

Rachel Martinez of the Monahans Hispanic Chamber of
Commerce has volunteered to assist Hispanic telephone
subscribers who can only speak Spanish. Martinez can be
reached, says Blair, at 943-4847.

Telephone subscribers in Monahans already pay $3.50 a month
extra for residential service and $7 a month extra for
business service as the result of an extended local calling
election two years ago. In that vote, they decided to add
only Odessa to the local network. Voters apparently did not
understand they could have added five cities on the ballot
for the same charge, rejecting the five-for-the-price-of-one
proposal and accepting only one, Odessa, although the cost
was the same as accepting all five.

Now telephone subscribers have an opportunity to remedy that
error with no additional cost to them, emphasizes Blair.

She notes the ballot states:

"As a result of Monahans' first ELC (extended local call)
project requesting the Odessa exchange, all subscribers are
being charged an additional monthly per line charge of $3.50
for residence and $7 for business. If subscribers in the
Monahans exchange approve this ballot, subscribers will not
be charged an additional fee."

In addition to Odessa, the cities of Grandfalls, Crane and
Imperial are in the Monahans local call network. They are
there because residents of Grandfalls, Crane and Imperial
voted to include Monahans in their local call nets.

That also does not cost extra because that was an action of
telephone subscribers in Grandfalls, Crane and Imperial.

"Mark 'yes' for all of the four areas," reminds Blair, "
noted on the ballot. Then mail the ballot as soon as
possible after marking it."

Molina guilty of assault

Christopher Paul Molina, 27, the amateur heavyweight boxing
champion of West Texas, is guilty of two charges filed
against him after an eruption of assault and violence at
the Monahans home of his then mother-in-law Thursday, Jan.

Judge Bob Parks of the 143rd District Court began to read
the jury's verdicts at 1:34 p.m., Wednesday, July 12, at the
Ward County Courthouse.

On the assault charge, the judge read: "Guilty! and then the
jury was polled. As the jurors all began to confirm the
verdict, Molina, dressed in a black suit, retrieved a white
handkerchief from a pocket and began to dab at his eyes as
tears began to flow. On the aggravated kidnapping charge,
the judge read: "Guilty!" Except for the tears, Molina
showed no emotion. His face was impassive. The jury was
polled again. On the attempted murder charge, the judge
read: "Not Guilty!" Molina turned as if to say something to
his attorneys. The sentencing phase of the trial began
almost immediately. It is this phase in which it will be
determined how the boxer will be punished.

He was charged with assaulting his mother-in-law, Janet L.
Howell, 52; aggravated kidnapping of his then estranged
wife, Natalie, Janet Howell's daughter (they have since
divorced); and attempted murder. In the bizarre episode at
the home of Howell, she suffered massive head injuries
after being felled by the boxer's fists; Molina's car and a
utility pole were shattered when he drove it into the
pole; Molina tried several times to hang himself by his
belt from a tree in the Howell yard; and then he cut his
wrists with a kitchen knife inside the Howell home before
he was taken into custody by police.

4-H riders win big in horse show

Special to the News
ABILENE - Ward County 4-H equestrians, ranging in age from
10 to 19 years old, showed big in the 1998 State Horse Show
in Abilene, according to a statement released by the club.

Phil Emfinger's Outriders Drill Team finished seventh
overall in the state competition and were a finalist in the
precision pattern section of the state competition.

Kalie Harris' mare is now ranked seventh in Texas; Mandy
Hawthorn owns the sixth place gelding; Kisha Riley is ranked
ninth in Poles; Adrian Woodward placed tenth in Hunter
Showmanship and made it to the semifinals in both Western
Showmanship and Western Horsemanship.

Riders representing Ward County at the state horse show

Jamie and Jessica Butters, Chandra and Chelsea Emfinger,
Dusty Gandy, Harris, Hawthorne, Patrick Hawthorne, Danya
LeGard, Kisha and Lindsey Riley, Seth Sebastian, Emerald and
Krystal Setzler, Courtney VanCleave, Amy Williamson and
Adrian Woodard.

Those unable to attend because of prior engagements or an
injured horse included Shanna Smith, Amanda Uechi, Bobby and
Coby Wood.

The competition took place from July 19 through July 25.

Monahans riders took part in events ranging from Western
Showmanship to Barrel racing. To qualify for the state
championship, the riders had to be ranked in the top 150 in

All of the Ward County riders own and care for their own

Connie Harris, a spokesperson for the riders, says George
Sauceda and County Agent Andy Stewart "could be found after
midnight grooming horses for upcoming events."

School Days are here

About 2,500 students from pre-kindergarten to high school,
about the same number as last year, are scheduled to begin
classes today, Thursday, Aug. 13, for the 1998-99 academic
year in the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school district.

The school year is scheduled to end on May 26, the same day
on which graduation ceremonies for the Lobo Class of 1999
will be held, says District superintendent Clifton L.

Stephens notes there are no major changes in school policies
from year's past.

School holidays, including Martin Luther King Day, are the
traditional ones, including the Christmas-New Year's and
Spring recesses.

Still a few things will be different.

In athletics, the Lobo teams will be playing in a new UIL
district where all the competing schools are closer to each
other, a realignment that Stephens has projected will save
the district hundreds of miles and thousands of dollars in
travel costs over past years when the teams had to travel
more than 200 miles to some contests.

At Tatom Elementary, school crossing guards, all Tatom
pupil volunteers, will assist students after school.

Tatom Principal Dick McClanahan says it is the first time he
can recall that Monahans schools have used student crossing
guards. The guards this year are the result of an initiative
by the Tatom parents organization.

Training for the volunteer crossing guards was provided by
Dale Bowman, a new Monahans teacher; by emergency service
technicians Loren Frost and Lee Ginn; and a Monahans police

Teachers have been preparing for their classes for several

Paper work for various school programs, including free and
reduced lunches, generally has been finished.

OC offers TASP tests here

Odessa College will be offering the Texas Academic Skills
Program (TASP) test at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15, in the
testing center at Monahans High School, according to a
statement from the Odessa College press office.

With some exceptions, the test is required for students to
enter colleges or universities which are funded fully or
partially by Texas taxpayers..

Saturday's testing date was scheduled at the request of
Monahans area students, says Bob Mobley, co-director of
off-campus programs at Odessa College.

Mobley emphasizes that "beginning this Fall, students who
are not TASP exempt must take the TASP before enrolling in a
state-supported institution."

Students who wish to take TASP on Saturday at Monahans High
were asked to call 943-2400 and ask for Mobley.

"Only 60 students can be tested at this session," according
to the Odessa College statement. "The cost to take the TASP
test is $29."

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Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
Joe Warren, Publisher
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314

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Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers Inc.