Francisco Javier Mecina Barrera was Sentenced to 21 Years in Prison and His Second-in-Command Adalid Cabrera Huato was Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Running an Armed Drug Trafficking Affiliate of Mexican Cartels
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that FRANCISCO JAVIER MECINA BARRERA, a/k/a “Angel,” was sentenced to 21 years in prison for MECINA’s leadership of a large-scale firearms trafficking and methamphetamine distribution and importation operation he called the “Cartel de Houston” — Spanish for “Houston Cartel” — or “CDH.” The organization smuggled substantial quantities of firearms to Mexico to trade them for hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine, which they then distributed throughout the United States, while using firearms of their own to protect their organization and threaten others. In June 2023, MECINA pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, who imposed today’s sentence. On December 1, 2023, Judge Marrero sentenced co-defendant ADALID CABRERA HUATO, a/k/a “China,” who was the CDH’s second-in-command, to 20 years in prison.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “These defendants sought nothing less than the establishment of a heavily armed drug cartel based in the United States, importing massive quantities of deadly drugs while exporting weapons to some of the most violent criminal organizations in the world. They believed Satan was watching over them because they knew what they were doing was evil — plain and simple. These crimes cause immense harm to communities on both sides of the border, all across the United States, and right here in New York City. Our Office continues its unwavering commitment to dismantling all organizations that look to line their pockets through drugs, guns, and violence.”
According to court filings and statements made in court proceedings:
From at least in or about March 2020 to at least in or about April 2021, MECINA was the leader of an international narcotics importation and distribution organization that imported hundreds of kilograms of crystal and liquid methamphetamine from Mexico into Texas and further distributed it throughout the United States, including to New York. MECINA called his group the Cartel de Houston, or “CDH,” because it was based in Houston and had ties to Mexico-based drug trafficking cartels.
CDH was also an international supplier of firearms. At MECINA’s direction, members of CDH smuggled numerous firearms into Mexico and delivered them to Mexico-based drug traffickers, often in exchange for methamphetamine that they then smuggled back into the United States for distribution, hidden in the gas tank of a car that MECINA provided to his couriers. A photograph of some of these firearms as they were packaged by members of CDH to be smuggled into Mexico is included below:
MECINA and other members of CDH also used firearms to threaten and intimidate a narcotics customer of CDH who owed MECINA money for drugs, intimidating him with an assault-style rifle with a 50-round drum magazine. When MECINA was arrested, that rifle and loaded drum magazine were found in his apartment, as shown in the below photographs:
After establishing CDH, MECINA appointed co-defendant Cabrera as his right-hand man in Houston, and MECINA recruited others, including co-defendants GIOVANNI DE LA MORA and JAIME SANTILLANO, to acquire and transport numerous guns from the United States into Mexico, trade them for substantial quantities of methamphetamine, and transport the drugs into the United States, where they would distribute them throughout the country, including to the Bronx, New York. MECINA provided his co-conspirators with vehicles and instructed them on how to hide the guns and drugs in the fuel tank to avoid detection.
MECINA also utilized a Mexico-based religious figure known as “Lucifer” to bless the CDH’s members and drugs as they were crossing the border. To exert control over his criminal organization, MECINA created a CDH Initiation Agreement that he sent to those working for him, marked it with a purportedly Satanic symbol, and detailed the “Rite of Initiation for New Applications to Enter the Fraternity of CDH,” as depicted below:
MECINA also created a logo for his criminal organization that he shared with co-conspirators, which had the same Satanic icon at the top:
MECINA, 32, of Michoacán, Mexico, and Houston, Texas, pled guilty to (i) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine; (ii) conspiracy to illegally import methamphetamine into the United States; and (iii) use, carrying, and possession of a firearm in connection with, and in furtherance of, the narcotics conspiracy and the narcotics importation conspiracy, which was brandished.
CABRERA, 26, of Houston, Texas, pled guilty to narcotics conspiracy.
As part of the same case, DE LA MORA and SANTILLANO, both of Houston, Texas, previously pled guilty to narcotics conspiracy. DE LA MORA and SANTILLANO were sentenced by Judge Marrero to 90 months and 86 months in prison, respectively. In addition to the prison terms, Judge Marrero sentenced DE LA MORA and SANTILLANO each to four years of supervised release.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) and the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations New York City Border Enforcement Security Task Force, which is comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including the New York City Police Department. Mr. Williams also thanked the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Houston Police Department, and the DEA Houston Division for their invaluable assistance in this investigation.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (“OCDETF”) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael R. Herman, Mitzi S. Steiner, and Jane Y. Chong, with the assistance of Paralegal Specialist Jacqueline Hauck, are in charge of the prosecution.
Nicholas Biase(212) 637-2600
Updated January 11, 2024