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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

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Wednesday, August 4, 1999

Driver describes drug ring's operations

Staff Writer

PECOS, Aug. 4, 1999 -- Using a sophisticated projector to display photos, witness statements and other evidence on a large screen and TV monitors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom McHugh on Tuesday began questioning witnesses in the trial of five alleged members of a drug smuggling gang.

Grand jurors for the Pecos Division of federal court indicted 21 suspects believed to have smuggled tons of marijuana into Texas from Mexico and transported it to Dallas and Georgia.

D. Mendez, 22, a Del Rio native whose attempt to transport marijuana from Dallas to Atlanta, Ga. for the gang was aborted by a flat tire and his arrest in Mississippi, testified this morning.

Working in Midland as a cook in February, 1997, Mendez quickly accepted the offer of $3,000 to drive the car for Martin Alarcon, Mendez testified.

"I was just trying to make easy money," Mendez said.

Alarcon, his wife and two other men drove Mendez from his home in Midland to Dallas, where marijuana was dumped from two suitcases into the trunk of a Lincoln Continental, Mendez said.

He identified Alarcon and Rosa A. Rodriguez as they sat at the defense table with Eberto Murrillo, Vicente Sanchez and Lourdes Alarcon Nino.

Nino is Alarcon's sister, he said.

Mendez said he drove the Lincoln, following the Alarcon car, which was to guide him to his destination in Atlanta, Ga. After making two stops to re-fuel along the way, a tire on the Lincoln went flat near Starkfield, Miss.

Alarcon picked up Mendez and they went into town to find someone to fix the flat, Mendez said. While a service station employee was trying to jack up the Lincoln, two Duval County sheriff's deputies arrived, he said.

They checked out his driver's license and car registration and asked Mendez questions.

"We had to go take the tire, so we left into town to fix the tire, and when we came back, the deputies' car wasn't there. When I got off, an officer came here and said he was from Tri-County. At the time, I had a feeling he probably sensed something about the car."

When asked for permission to search the trunk, Mendez said he had no key.

"Did you lie to him?" asked McHugh.

"Yes, I was trying to make money," Mendez said.

"He asked me if there was anything illegal in that car. I was young and never did this before, and I said, `yes'," Mendez said. "They put handcuffs on me and took me to the station. They took the car and opened up the trunk at the station."

McHugh showed a photo of the open trunk of the car in which bundles of marijuana wrapped in duct tape were visible, along with the Georgia license plate.

Mendez said he gave a statement to police that was not true, because "I just thought that Martin was going to help me out," and he wanted to protect Alarcon.

His Mississippi trial date was postponed so he could come to Pecos to testify, Mendez said.

"The D.A. told my lawyer it was still going to be hard for me, whether I testified or not," he said. "It will help me a little; it is going to look better in my court."

The jury trial is expected to continue through Friday before U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson.

Furgeson gives probation to duo

Staff Writer

PECOS, Aug. 4, 1999 -- Two young men charged with conspiracy to possess and possession of marijuana for distribution promised Tuesday they would not return to federal court if given a chance to straighten up their lives.

Judge Royal Furgeson placed both on five years probation, but warned that one slip-up would land them in prison.

Christopher Jason Straub of Garland, who turned 23 today, had earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess marijuana. His co-defendant, Patrick Sutton Scroggins, 22, of Arlington, pleaded guilty to misprison of a felony (failure to report a crime).

Straub was the one who was caught with the marijuana, said Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Miller.

"He was saying other individuals were involved, but we couldn't tie them in without his cooperation," Miller said.

Straub was cooperating until he returned to Arlington, "then he no longer cooperated," Miller said.

His attorney, Charlotte Harris, said that Straub is working on his education.

"He is not a government snitch that knows how to do this in perfect fashion," she said.

Judge Furgeson recognized that neither defendant had a criminal record and were in college.

"Why would anyone jeopardize such a promising future?" he asked Straub.

Straub said that he was doing a favor for friends.

"Sometimes I wonder how anyone makes it because there's so many pitfalls out there," Judge Furgeson said. "There are lots of bad people out there. They will leave you to hang out to dry, these so-called friends of yours. They let you and Scroggins take all the risk. You get caught, and they are walking around free.

"This will be on your record forever. It will so adversely impact on you."

Judge Furgeson said that drugs are all bad.

"If they don't kill your body, they kill your spirit," he said, noting that Straub had twice failed to supply a urine sample for drug testing during his pre-trial supervision.

"If you use drugs one time, you will be back here, revoked and going to prison," he warned. "Almost nobody gets probation in federal court; it is a miracle. It is a wonderful gift..."

Others sentenced this week are:

* Reyes Franco-Jaquez, 21, of Presidio, possession of marijuana, 27 months in prison.

* Manuel Zapata, 35, of Sparks, possession of marijuana, 27 months.

* Victor Avila-Vasquez, 29, of Tornillo, importing marijuana, 15 months.

* Roberto Moreno-Gutierrez, 37, of Cuauhtemoc, Mex., import and possess marijuana, 63 months each count, concurrent.

* Sixto Borunda-Marungo, 36, of Chihuahua, Mex., possession of marijuana, 8 months.

* Aristeo Soto-Sigala, 23, of Chihuahua, Mex., possession of marijuana, 8 months.

* Heather Michelle Gibbons, 24, import marijuana, 10 months.

* Ricardo Gonzalez, conspiracy, 12 months.

* Silvino Gomez-Lopez, 30, of Durango, Mex., illegal entry after deportation, 21 months.

* Socorro Guzman Selat, 28, of Muleshoe, transporting illegal aliens, five years probation.

* Reydesel Marquez-Olivas, 34, of Ojinaga, Mex., illegal re-entry after deportation, 24 months.

* Eleanor Chacon-Chavez, 27 months.

Council deals with low levels of cash, water

Staff Writer

PECOS, Aug. 4, 1999 -- Pecos City Council completed their meetings with department heads on budget recommendations Tuesday, cutting such items as new vehicles, travel expenses and supplies in an attempt to reduce spending without cutting services.

City Manager Kenneth Neal said the workshop covered the police department, water, sewer and street departments, fire marshal, council and administration budgets.

"We have to go back and make changes," Neal said. "We have to figure where we are going to save some more money."

Neal said the council has cut the budget every year, and "we just can't cut much more and provide the services."

Councilman Gerald Tellez Jr. said the council discussed the water well situation, but took no action on drilling a new well because the driller has already moved his rig.

A just-completed well in the Worsham Field pumped only 30 gallons per minute.

"It had started to do more, but went down again on us," he said.

A new water well field is being sought to replace the current Worsham and Ward County fields, which are expected to provide adequate water supplies for the city only through 2008.

The next budget workshop will be at 4:30 p.m. next Tuesday.

New TxDOT engineer visits Pecos office

Staff Writer

PECOS, Aug. 4, 1999 -- The new Texas Department of Transportation district engineer for the Odessa District was introduced during a potluck dinner at the Pecos office Monday.

Lauren Garduno, P.E., will be overseeing the district, which covers Odessa and surrounding areas, including Reeves County.

"This is a great opportunity and I'm excited to be taking over this district," Garduno said.

He replaces Jose E. Morales, who died of a heart attack while playing basketball with other TxDOT workers in Odessa earlier this year.

Garduno said that he was trying to get out and meet everyone who works for him as he begins his tenure as district engineer.

There are about 350 employees in the district.

"I am very impressed with the quality of the people and the roads in this district," he said. "The highways are in excellent condition and you can attribute that to the people doing the work."

As district engineer, Garduno will be responsible for the maintenance and construction in the district an area covering more than 18,000 square miles, according to Glen Larum, public information officer for the district.

Larum said that the district is one of the largest in Texas.

Garduno, a professional engineer, holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Texas Tech University, a master's degree in management from Abilene Christian, and a master's in civil engineering from Texas A & M.

Before being named as district enginee he was the director of operations for the Abilene District.

Commish to meet on water tank plan

PECOS, Aug. 4, 1999 -- A water tanks proposal package will be the topic of discussion at a special Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Thursday on the third floor of the Reeves County Courthouse.

Commissioners will discuss negotiating bids on site utilities and listen to the Reeves County Detention Center 1,000 Bed DRG Construction Report.

Tech Center to offer child immunizations

PECOS, Aug. 4, 1999 -- Immunizations at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, 700 Daggett, Suite C, will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of this month.

The shots will be offered on Aug. 10 and Aug. 24. Also available is the Hepatitis A immunization, which is a requirement for all children born after 1992.

Children will not be allowed to enter school or day cares without the new Hepatitis A immunization.


AUSTIN (AP) Results of the Cash 5 drawing Tuesday night.

Winning numbers drawn: 3-2-16-35-29. Number matching five of five: 1. Prize per winner: $83,311. Winning ticket sold in: Karnack. Matching four of five: 160. Prize: $781.


AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Tuesday by the Texas Lottery, in order:

1-0-9 (one, zero, nine)


Alberta Sims

Alberta Mae Sims, 83, died Monday, Aug. 2, 1999, in an Abilene hospital.

Services will be held at 11 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 5, in Elmwood Funeral Home Chapel with Reverend James Taliaferro officiating. Burial will be in Elmwood Memorial Park.

Mrs. Sims was born in Auburn, Neb., to Lawrence and Minnie Jane Little. She married Ruben Benson Sims in 1941. She moved to Abilene in 1990 from Odessa. Sims was a homemaker and a member of the Sherwood Baptist Church in Odessa.

Survivors include one son, Richard Sims of Pecos; one daughter, Becky Davis of Abilene; one sister, Connie Gerdes of Auburn, Neb.; seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.


PECOS, Aug. 4, 1999 -- High Tuesday 95; low last night 69. Tonight, partly cloudy with 20 percent chance of thunderstorms. Low 65 70. Southeast wind 5-15 mph. Thursday, partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms. High near 90. Southeast wind 5-15 mph. Extended forecast, Thursday night, partly cloudy with a slight chance of evening thunderstorms. Low 65-70. Friday through Sunday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of afternoon and evening thunderstorms each day. Highs in the lower to mid 90s. Lows in the upper 60s to lower 70s.

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Pecos Enterprise
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