A man accused of attempting to intimidate a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent outside the federal courthouse in McAllen was charged with obstruction of justice last week.
Hector Reyes Jr., 19, of Mission stared and spat at Special Agent Patrick Zaruba on May 9, according to a criminal complaint filed by the government.
Zaruba worked on “Operation Ice River,” which targeted drug smugglers in Starr County. As part of the investigation, prosecutors brought charges against Hector Reyes Jr.’s father.
“I believe that it’s a very, very weak case,” said attorney Lilly Ann Gutierrez of Edinburg, who represents Hector Reyes Jr.
Gutierrez and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Cook Profit discussed the case Tuesday morning, when Hector Reyes Jr. appeared in court for a detention hearing.
Hector Reyes Jr. graduated from McAllen Memorial High School, Gutierrez said, and is studying to become a pilot.
Agents seized more than 7,700 pounds of marijuana, about 330 kilograms of methamphetamine and 60 kilograms of cocaine during the investigation.
Prosecutors also secured indictments against more than 30 people, including Garza’s wife, Melissa, the former city secretary for Rio Grande City; and former Justice of the Peace Roel “Role” Valadez Jr.
Hector Reyes Sr. mailed cocaine to other parts of the country and recruited drivers to transport drugs, Zaruba said during a hearing in May. He also conducted quasi-religious ceremonies to “bless” drug shipments.
Smugglers believed the ceremonies, which involved animal sacrifice, would protect them from law enforcement.
In one instance, according to an indictment against him, Hector Reyes Sr. acquired a five-week-old jaguar “intended for sacrifice.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized the jaguar, which survived.
A grand jury indicted Hector Reyes Sr. on drug charges in September 2022. He apparently fled the country before federal agents could arrest him.
His girlfriend, Liliana Resendez-Garza, said Hector Reyes Sr. “had left the house in the middle of the night and was in a panic when he departed,” according to the criminal complaint.
The U.S. Marshals Service tracked Hector Reyes Sr. to Monterrey, Mexico. Prosecutors believe Resendez-Garza and Hector Reyes Jr. started making regular trips across the border to visit him.
In April 2023, the Marshals Service obtained a video posted from Hector Reyes Jr.’s Snapchat account, which suggested the Gulf Cartel was protecting his father.
The video included a message from someone who identified himself as Comandante Metro 7.
“Padrino Hector Reyes has f—ing support,” according to a translation of the message filed by prosecutors. “So now you know, f—ing stand down while you still have time, sons of bitches.”
DEA Special Agent Antonio De La Cruz, who testified during the hearing on Tuesday, said the video is clearly a threat.
“Those words are not a joke,” De La Cruz said.
Hector Reyes Sr. and Resendez-Garza were arrested on April 30 after a trip to Cancun.
Resendez-Garza asked a judge to release her on bond. The government opposed the request, concerned Resendez-Garza would flee the country.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Juan F. Alanis held several hearings on the issue during May.
On May 9, when Zaruba testified, Hector Reyes Jr. watched from the gallery. After the hearing, Zaruba left the courthouse. Hector Reyes Jr. was still in the parking lot.
Hector Reyes Jr. stared at Zaruba and spat toward his car, according to the criminal complaint. Hours later, Hector Reyes Jr. discussed the incident with his father.
The conversation, which took place on a jail phone, was recorded.
“… and like, the dude got scared,” Hector Reyes Jr. said, according to a transcript filed by prosecutors.
“Why? Why did he get scared?” Hector Reyes Sr. asked.
“Well, because of the things that, that are said about you,” Hector Reyes Jr. said.
They also discussed the Snapchat video.
“Remember you told me to post it and I posted it?” Hector Reyes Jr. said.
“Yeah, yeah yeah,” Hector Reyes Sr. said, adding that he thought the video was “funny.”
The Marshals Service arrested Hector Reyes Jr. on June 7.
If convicted on the obstruction of justice charge, Hector Reyes Jr. faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison.