Home / Dallas News / Brothers whose drug exploits were glorified in Mexican drug ballad get lengthy prison sentences

Brothers whose drug exploits were glorified in Mexican drug ballad get lengthy prison sentences

Music from Mexico filled a dreary, wood-paneled federal courtroom Thursday in Dallas, but the occasion was far from festive.

Prosecutors played the narcocorrido, or drug ballad, during the sentencing of Felix Giovanni Ruiz Mendoza, who got 18 years in federal prison for importing Mexican methamphetamine and selling it in North Texas.

The goal: to show his ties to Mexican drug cartels.

Performed by the band, La Ley De Michoacan, the song was written for Mendoza, 27, and told from his perspective. The folk song boasts about his drug connections to the accompaniment of accordion and guitar music: “I came highly recommended to the City of Dallas, Texas. I worked like the great ones.”

And it laments his capture by federal authorities and the time he will spend away from his family. Prosecutors called it a “status symbol” and said Mexican cartel bosses have to give such songs their approval.

“The FBI, SWAT, police and other government dogs fell upon me, as if I was Bin Laden, airplanes in the air, oh what a big deal they made.”

The ballad also mentions his younger brother, Gustavo Ruiz Mendoza, 24, who also took part in the drug smuggling scheme.

“It hurts me not to fall alone. Bad luck came upon my little brother, Gustavo.”

U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay sentenced Gustavo to 19 years in prison Thursday afternoon. Prosecutors said Gustavo played a lesser role in the conspiracy than his brother. But he will serve a year longer in prison because Felix earned a sizable reduction by agreeing to cooperate with agents and give them information.

The brothers, who both pleaded guilty last year, had faced a maximum of 40 years in the case.

Such ballads are common in Mexico as a way of glorifying the drug culture, federal authorities say. They celebrate the lives and exploits of drug traffickers. But they are also controversial in Mexico, where the government has been fighting a bloody conflict with the cartels for years. They have been banned from radio stations and are outlawed in many parts of the country.

A law enforcement officer, who The Dallas Morning News is not identifying because he works undercover, testified during the hearing that the song was intended to show that Felix “delivered on his word” and came through for his suppliers back home. It’s a sign of respect, he said, and elevates his stature back in his small town in Mexico.

If such songs are not authorized, “there are consequences,” the officer said.

“They came to me in droves, without giving me time for anything, and this time they surprised me. Oh well, they already caught me. Like the one who rides the bull, I will endure the bucking.”

The band’s name translates to “The Law of Michoacán,” named after the state in Western Mexico from where the Mendoza brothers hail. Their song, which uses Felix’s name as the title, was uploaded to YouTube in December 2018 and has more than 23,000 views. The band also produced a song that translates to “The Law of the Assassins,” the undercover officer said in court.

“This culture, it’s about reputation,” the officer said.

He also told the judge that it’s rare for narcocorridos to include the real names of drug operatives.

Gustavo’s attorney, Vincent Carrizales, argued that his client should have gotten less time because, as the government conceded, he played a “junior role” to his older brother. And he said the ballad even mentions how Gustavo fell on bad luck, illustrating that he was not a big player.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney George Leal said Gustavo could have provided information like his brother but chose not to. Leal also told Lindsay that if he gave Gustavo less time, “then it cheapens what his brother did” by agreeing to cooperate.

Cooking up meth

The brothers have been in custody since their July 2018 arrests. Officials said they were not authorized to live in the U.S.

Felix admitted in plea documents that he sold methamphetamine from two Balch Springs houses in 2018 and used one of them as a “methamphetamine conversion lab.”

“Two of the three bedrooms were set up to convert methamphetamine into a crystalline substance and the garage had been converted into a den that had a propane burner to reduce the liquid methamphetamine solution,” the plea documents said.

“I’m imprisoned today, but the years will pass and they will have to set me free… I will patiently wait. They have already issued my sentence. I will pay them for my crime.”

Officials say the brothers had more than 90 kilograms of methamphetamine. Felix also admitted that some of the money he earned from selling methamphetamine in Dallas was “sent to Mexico to cover importation fees.”

The investigation began when the FBI used a confidential informant to contact Felix in 2018 about purchasing crystal methamphetamine, or as he put it in a coded text: “to get some boots like the first ones,” according to the complaint.

Felix responded that he was going to send “my little brother.” The sale between the informant and Gustavo was made at a car wash, the complaint said. The FBI says the methamphetamine belonged to a cartel in the Mexican city of Apatzingan, in the state of Michoacán.

During a different sale, Felix told an informant that he was a methamphetamine cook and that the drug he sold to the informant came from his kitchen, court records show. Authorities seized about $12,600 in cash, two handguns and a rifle from the brothers, court records show.

“I will miss the warmth of my family. Oh I will miss them so much. I entrust you my children to look after and take good care of my aging parents.”

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