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Three Convicted in 21-Ton Cocaine Haul, Mistrial for Three Others

November 8, 1990

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Three men arrested in the 1989 seizure of 21.4 tons of cocaine were convicted of drug trafficking and conspiracy.

The jury returned guilty verdicts Tuesday on all charges against Carlos Tapia Ponce, 69, and his two sons-in-law, Jose Ignacio Mauricio Monroy Iniguez, 37, and James Romero McTague, 42, the only U.S.-born defendant.

Each faces 10 years to life in prison and up to $4 million in fines. Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 28.

U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. declared a mistrial for three other defendants after the jury deadlocked on charges against Hector Tapia Anchondo, 39, Hugo Fernando Castillon Alvarez, 33, and Miguel Garcia Chavez, 35.

Prosecutors would not comment except to say they will seek a new trial for the three. A Nov. 19 hearing was scheduled to set a new trial date.

Eight of the deadlocked jurors favored conviction. Juror Keith Murphy said the four jurors who favored acquittal did not consider the evidence fairly.

″They were biased against police officers,″ he said.

The September 1989 cocaine seizure occurred in a warehouse in suburban Sylmar. The cocaine was wrapped in one-kilogram packages stored in hundreds of cardboard boxes. Authorities also seized $12 million cash during the raid.

During the trial, which started Sept. 19, federal prosecutors characterized Tapia Ponce, a retired Mexican customs inspector, as ″the overseer and patriarch″ of the drug trafficking ring.

The ring used big-rig trailers to ship 77 tons of cocaine from El Paso, Texas, to the Sylmar warehouse before the raid. The drugs then would be distributed to buyers, prosecutors alleged.

Each defendant except Chavez was charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Chavez and McTague were charged with possession with intent to sell 20 kilograms of cocaine.

At the time of the seizure, federal officials said the quantity of cocaine was the largest ever impounded by authorities and that it represented about 5 percent of an estimated annual global production of the drug.

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