Hopkins County cases lead to federal indictments

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Oct 17, 2007 - A federal grand jury last week indicted five people on charges stemming from Hopkins County cases.

Two men — Gary Dean Lee, and Brandon Ray Mitchell — were charged in separate cases of federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas Thursday. Three others — Ignacio Carmona-Del Castillo, Ivan Benjamin Isham and Linda Robinson Taylor — were indicted on charges related to transporting illegal aliens, according to United States Attorney John L. Ratcliffe.

Gary Dean Lee, 41, of Commerce is in trouble for weapons and drug offenses. He was indicted for possession with the intent to distribute or dispense methamphetamine; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; possession of a firearm not registered in the national firearms registration and transfer record; an, unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm.

If convicted, Lee faces up to 40 years in federal prison and a fine up to $2 million. Assistant United States Attorney Tracey M. Batson is prosecuting Lee’s case, which was investigated by the Sulphur Springs Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The offenses are alleged to have occurred on March 2, 2006, when Lee was living on County Road 4786 at the intersection of State Highway 11 west in Ridgeway.

Lee had been under investigation for two months for suspected connection to methamphetamine cases in Hopkins County. Sulphur Springs narcotics investigators executed a search warrant at his  residence on March 2, 2006, assisted by sheriff’s investigators, deputies and city police officers. Lee was taken into custody after methamphetamine was found in the residence.

Two video cameras had been set up to monitor activity near the Precinct 4 county barn, and German shepherds on the grounds  were reported to be trained guard dogs. Officers set up surveillance at the location and waited for him to return home.

Two of the three dogs at the location had gotten outside after Lee arrived home. When he was taken into custody, he attempted to resist officers, according to reports. One of the dogs turned on officers and was shot and killed, narcotics officers said following the incident.

Inside, an illegal shotgun was found by a chair and the cameras were located on the property. Officials also recovered a tightly packed flatbed trailer full of suspected stolen items such as an air conditioner, large power and utility tools, a pump shotgun, a .20-gauge shotgun, and several long guns, as well as car-towing equipment thought to have been stolen Canada. A large quantity of methamphetamine was also found along with a loaded pistol in a locked drawer. 

Garland Bomb Squad was contacted after officers searching the property found a “pineapple grenade with military designations” and a “grenade simulator.” The item was determined to be a fake grenade which had been “plugged,” narcotics officers said later.

Brandon Ray Mitchell, 34, of Sulphur Springs, was indicted on the charge of felon in possession of a firearm. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

On Sept. 26, Mitchell, 34, was arrested by Sulphur Springs Police Officer Mark Estes and Special Crimes Unit Sgt. Harold McClure on South Davis Street for felon in possession of a firearm and on a parole violation warrant. He was stopped after officers noted the passenger in his Ford F150 was not wearing a seat belt. A warrants check showed Mitchell to be wanted by Austin Parole Division. A rifle was located in the back seat.

The case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Errin Martin.

Ignacio Carmona-del Castillo, 43, Ivan Benjamin Isham, 75, and Linda Robinson Taylor, 43, were indicted in federal court last week for transporting illegal aliens, transporting illegal aliens for financial gain, and aiding and abetting. Their place of residence is unknown.

On Sept. 10, Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Special Crimes Unit busted the trio that evening in the 500 block of Moore Street. They were caught with seven people who are alleged to have been smuggled into the country from Mexico.

��Carmona[-Del Castillo], seems to be the one who paid the other two to transport the illegals,� SCU Lt. Ron Plaxco said the morning after the trio were caught. �From our investigation, we believe he�s the one that set it up. The other two were the drivers.�

�Carmona-Del Castillo is believed to have paid Taylor and Isham to drive to El Paso, where they picked up seven people, five men and two women, who were in the country illegally. They then transported the Mexican nationals to Sulphur Springs, having them ride in a U-Haul a portion of the way, Plaxco said at the time.

�SCU detained them on Moore Street as they were coming into Sulphur Springs, taking both drivers, all seven illegal s and Carmona-Del Castillo into custody. The seven aliens were released to immigration officials.

If convicted, they each face up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. This case is being investigated by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Randall Blake.

United States Attorney John L. Ratcliffe reminds that “an indictment should not be considered as evidence of guilt and that all persons charged with a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” It should also be noted that while the court indicted the individuals, not all have been served with the indictments and arrested on the charges.

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