GEORGE WEST – Officers who were checking to make sure a passenger in a car in George West was OK discovered more than they expected, as further investigation resulted in the seizure of more than $349,000 that has been linked to international money laundering operations.
The incident took place during the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 29, and George West police officers were called regarding a possible disturbance taking place in a vehicle. A witness following the car gave a description to the police, and the car was stopped while traveling southbound on Highway 281.
During a search of the vehicle, the officers found a hidden compartment in the car that held several bundles of cash and a brick of marijuana. A total of $349,600 and the drugs were seized by the police.
Andrew Moreno of Roma, the driver, was arrested and charged with money laundering, a second degree felony, and also with possession of marijuana, a state jail felony. He was booked into the Live Oak County Jail. Moreno also faces federal charges for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin, as well as carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking conspiracy.
An adult and two children who were passengers in the vehicle were released, but further investigation continues.
Following the stop, the George West Police Department learned that the car and suspect who was arrested were part of an investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety as well as federal law enforcement.
The federal operation tracking Moreno was named Operation Dirty Bird. Moreno was one of three suspects arrested on federal drug charges.
A press release issued on Oct. 31 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office notes that the operation resulted in the seizure of cash that was believed to have been headed for Mexico, as well as almost 10 kilograms of cocaine and more than a quarter kilogram of meth.
Moreno faces court action in the Corpus Christi Division of the Southern District of Texas.
Also arrested in the operation were Jose Armando Rosales-Bernal, 27, of Dallas, and Julio Villarreal, 35, of Mesquite.
The press release indicates that, if convicted, the men face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.
The case is being investigated by the Mt. Pleasant office of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Criminal Investigation Division.
In addition, the following agencies have played critical roles in this investigation: the Dallas office of Homeland Security Investigations; the Mesquite, Texas, Police Department SWAT team; the Texas National Guard; the Texas Department of Public Safety, Highway Patrol Division and Aircraft Division; the George West Police Department; and the 23rd Judicial Drug Task Force in Dickson, Tennessee. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan R. Hornok.