Major drug bust in local parishes related to Mexican drug cartel, prosecutors say

Updated: Jul. 1, 2019 at 6:20 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Federal prosecutors announced a major drug bust and the arrest of people in two parishes that were allegedly connected to a Mexican cartel Monday (July 1).

Local and federal agencies said they worked together to make 18 arrests and secure nine indictments for individuals in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.

U.S. Attorney Peter Strasser said the defendants are charged with trafficking meth, heroin, cocaine and firearms.

Of those, three Terrebonne and Lafourche men were indicted for distribution of more than 500 grams of meth, three Texas men were indicted for intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and two Houma men were indicted for intent to distribute 500 grams or more of meth.

According to Strasser, Harris Henderson, 43 of Schreiver, Louisiana, was charged last July in a one-count indictment by a Federal Grand Jury with distributing five grams or more of methamphetamine.

Rafael Molina, 43, Gustavo Balderas, 32, and Michael Garza, 34, all from Texas, were charged this February in a six-count indictment by a Federal Grand Jury with several narcotic offenses. Among their charges were conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 500 grams or more of a mixture containing meth.

Two 29-year-old men from Gray, Louisiana -- Hakeam Drane and Spencer Rounds, Jr. -- along with 28-year-old Larry Chatman of Thibodeaux, were charged on May 20, in a four-count indictment by a federal grand jury. All three are facing several narcotic charges, including conspiring to distribute 500 grams or more of meth.

Strasser said the indictments began last November and the investigation started when a man was stopped by a state trooper, who found 24 pounds of meth in his possession.

During the investigation, Strasser said authorities recovered 85 pounds of meth, more than 20 pounds of cocaine and 18 AK-47s.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Brad Byerly said the investigation started over a year ago.

The street value of the drugs is about $1 million, according to Byerly.

“I want these indictments to send a message, and that message is to every individual out there who thinks he’s going to get into the business of peddling poison, know this: We’re going to find you, we’re going to take you down, we’re going to take you to trial, and if you’re convicted at trial, you will be spending a good portion of your life in either federal or state prison,” Strasser said.

Lafourche Parish Special Narcotics Prosecutor Heather Hendrix explained these parishes were used as a thoroughfare both because of their proximity to major cities and their small size.

“Lafourche is conveniently [located] for a drug dealer," Hendrix said. “One hour away from New Orleans, and one hour away from Baton Rouge. We’re right off of the Highway 90 interchange, so that if you’re moving drugs through, it’s quite easy to think that they could stop in a sleepy little parish. And we’re here to tell you that we’re not sleeping. We’ve been on the case this whole time.”

Strasser said he expects more arrests and indictments to come from the investigation.

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