HOUSTON – Three Houston men have been ordered to federal
prison following their convictions in a $1 million narcotics trafficking
conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Robert Ashleigh Whitten, 38, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to
possess with intent to distribute cocaine. Lalo Buddy Perez, 27, and
Michael Anthony Patran, 29, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and to possession
of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Today, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake ordered Perez to serve a
135-month term of imprisonment, while Whitten and Patran received respective
sentences of 120 and 60 months in prison. Perez and Whitten will serve five
years of supervised release following completion of their prison terms. Patran
will serve three years of supervised release.
In 2016, law enforcement personnel began investigating a
drug trafficking organization distributing significant quantities of cocaine in
the Houston area. Agents quickly confirmed that Patran and Perez were both
major suppliers and distributors within the Houston and Magnolia, Texas,
community. Through the course of the investigation, agents also confirmed
that Patran and Perez conspired with Whitten to distribute cocaine and the
proceeds from the narcotics trafficking.
On Sept. 6, 2016, authorities conducted a traffic stop on a
vehicle Perez was driving with Patran as passenger. At that time, law
enforcement discovered a blue Puma gym bag containing 20 individually-wrapped
packages of U.S. currency, which totaled approximately $237,475. They also
found an AK-47 assault rifle and Walther P99 pistol.
Shortly thereafter, law enforcement agents observed Whitten
at a gas station and contacted him. He lied to the police about his identity
and attempted to flee, but was captured immediately. Upon a search of his Dodge
Ram truck, authorities found more than 18 kilograms of cocaine and
approximately $666,638.00 in his vehicle. Some of the cocaine was open and spilled
into a cooler which caused an odor that permeated the
All three men have been and will remain in custody pending
transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near
The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the
investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julie N. Searle and Rick Bennett are
prosecuting the case.