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Two men pleaded guilty Monday in Victoria federal court to smuggling drugs.

Raul Beltran Jr., 50, and his son, Edward Beltran, 24, both of Rio Grande City, are on bond pending their sentencing hearing set for June 3, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

They each face up to life in federal prison and a possible $10 million maximum fine.

In January 2013, a Victoria County Sheriff’s Office deputy intercepted about 600 pounds of marijuana concealed in a horse trailer. The trailer also contained two racehorses.

That prompted a lengthy, multiple-agency, multi-jurisdictional investigation that would ultimately uncover that the Beltrans used their horse ranches in Rio Grande City to receive, repackage and conceal marijuana in horse trailers, flatbed trailers and tractor-trailers to ship it north. They used the sport of horse racing to facilitate drug smuggling and to launder illicit proceeds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The organization also used violence, intimidation, bribery and public corruption to facilitate and perpetuate their illicit activities for almost a decade with impunity. The investigation demonstrated the organization’s dealings with ranking members of the Gulf and Zeta cartels and Starr County Chicano Brotherhood as well as the involvement of multiple corrupt sworn peace officers assigned in the Rio Grande Valley, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Twenty-two people have been convicted as a result of this investigation, including a former Starr County Sheriff’s Office deputy. Three horse ranches as well as an American quarter horse race stallion named “Jet Black Patriot” and his breeding proceeds and awards have also been seized, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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