After the FBI arrested her father-in-law on federal drug charges, Alondra De Leon stepped up.
De Leon sent a text message to someone who had purchased drugs from her husband’s family — and still owed them money. They set up a meeting.
Less than a month later, the FBI caught De Leon red-handed with nearly $30,000 in drug money.
“I can’t say it’s a mistake or an error,” De Leon said on June 15, when she appeared in court for sentencing. “It’s just a bad decision.”
De Leon pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. In exchange, prosecutors dropped a gun charge against her.
“I’ve learned from it. The hard way,” De Leon said. “It shouldn’t have been like this.”
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Alondra Jacqueline De Leon, 27, of rural Edinburg to two years in prison followed by three years on supervised release.
“I see a young woman who, I think, could have made some very different choices,” Alvarez said.
For some people, drug smuggling is the family business, Alvarez said, and they don’t think twice about breaking the law. De Leon, though, made a choice to become involved.
“You are now tied to this family no matter what because of your children,” Alvarez said. “But you do have some choices, moving forward, about what you do and whether you stay involved with the family or not.”
The FBI arrested De Leon during an investigation that targeted her father-in-law, Pablo Talavera Sr., and his brother, Elias Talavera.
They smuggled methamphetamine from Texas to Tennessee in oxygen tanks with false bottoms, according to documents filed by prosecutors in the Western District of Tennessee.
In May 2021, the FBI arranged for an informant to buy 1 kilogram of heroin and 2 kilograms of methamphetamine from Elias Talavera.
The informant promised to pay Elias Talavera for the drugs later.
In June, however, Border Patrol arrested Elias Talavera.
The informant, under the supervision of FBI agents, started making payments to Pablo Talavera Sr. instead.
In August, when Pablo Talavera Sr. was arrested on federal drug charges, the informant received a text message from De Leon.
They met face-to-face on Aug. 20.
“During the meeting, De Leon explained that she was in contact with E. Talavera and was requesting that the money owed to E. Talavera be given to her,” according to the criminal complaint against De Leon.
They met again on Sept. 2, when the informant gave her $2,000, and on Sept. 16, when the informant handed her a red bag stuffed with cash. De Leon said that she knew about the drug deal and documented all the payments in a ledger.
The FBI arrested De Leon minutes after the Sept. 16 meeting.
“This is a very serious case,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jesse Salazar. “The overall investigation has been responsible for sending family members to prison for very lengthy terms.”
Along with De Leon, the FBI arrested her brother-in-law, Pablo Talavera Jr., a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper.
De Leon didn’t know members of the Talavera family were drug smugglers when they first met, said her attorney, Rick Salinas of Mission.
“I don’t believe she knew anything about the family. I think she found out as time went on,” Salinas said. “But I think it was too difficult for her to do anything about it. She had babies already.”