Skip to content

New details surface about man accused of coordinating drug shipments for Jalisco New Generation Cartel

In 2016 or 2017, when Ivan Ornelas-Pio worked for a McAllen restaurant, a friend asked him for a favor.

“That favor was to pick up some speaker boxes from a trailer — like a taco truck — down near Pharr, Texas, near the bridge,” said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Kevin Beverly, who spent years investigating Ornelas-Pio. “And that was kind of his first assignment, so to speak.”

Smugglers had packed the speaker boxes with drugs. Sometimes they contained bricks of cocaine or bundles of heroin.

“And then, sometimes, the speakers contain just loosely packed crystal methamphetamine,” Beverly said. “So you can remove the subwoofer itself, the speaker, and it’s just slam-packed full of crystal meth right behind the speaker.”

The one-time favor quickly became a full-time job for Ornelas-Pio, according to federal prosecutors. By 2018, he was coordinating drug shipments for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

“Everyone who touched the speaker boxes would have to be in contact with Mr. Ornelas-Pio,” Beverly said.

A grand jury indicted Ornelas-Pio on drug charges in January 2023. He pleaded not guilty.

Beverly summarized the case during a court hearing on April 21, when he spent nearly 25 minutes on the witness stand.

The investigation started in January 2018, Beverly said. Agents began by conducting a traffic stop on Ornelas-Pio to identify him.

Within five months, they’d seized more than 150 kilograms of drugs linked to Ornelas-Pio, Beverly said. After the arrests, though, other members of the drug trafficking organization told Ornelas-Pio about the investigation.

“And so he fled to Mexico, back to Michoacan where he was from,” Beverly said.

Ornelas-Pio continued to coordinate drug shipments from Mexico. And the DEA continued to investigate him.

Agents determined that members of the drug trafficking organization would recruit truckers to bring the speaker boxes across the border. Drivers would pick up the speaker boxes and head north to Houston, Dallas, Chicago, New York and North Carolina.

Five undercover officers recorded phone calls with Ornelas-Pio.

“He would speak to these undercover officers, not knowing that they were undercovers,” Beverly said. “But talking to them as if they were going to be receiving the speakers from tractor-trailer drivers.”

Prosecutors charged about 70 people linked to Ornelas-Pio, including a former member of the Santa Maria school board, a mechanic from Edinburg and the owner of a South McAllen car lot. The DEA and other law enforcement agencies seized more than 2,000 kilograms of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl from the organization.

Ornelas-Pio, however, remained in Mexico. He apparently kept coordinating drug shipments until 2020 or 2021, when “Choco,” the person who recruited him, was murdered.

“And that’s why things kind of fell apart,” Beverly said.

Ornelas-Pio’s family, which had built a home in Pharr, moved to California. In January 2022, he crossed the border near Tijuana and joined them.

The DEA tracked down Ornelas-Pio and arrested him in January 2023, about a year after he returned.

“We advised him of his rights. He wished to speak to us without an attorney present,” Beverly said. “And he gave us a full confession of his role within the organization.”

Leave a Comment