INDIANAPOLIS– Joseph H. Hogsett, the United States Attorney, announced today the return of a seven-count indictment of four central Indianahttp://www.projectsafechildhood.gov. residents for a variety of federal drug and firearms offenses. The indictment describes a regional drug trafficking conspiracy, and alleges that the defendants played various roles in the illegal trafficking of assault rifles and other weapons from Indiana to a Mexican-based drug cartel.
"The allegations in this indictment describe individuals engaged in a deadly trade – importing dangerous drugs into Indiana, and exporting deadly firearms south of the border," Hogsett said. "Our office has made a commitment to combat organized crime in this state, and this prosecution represents another important step toward that goal."
The indictment alleges that from at least 2009, Hermion Torres acted as an organizer and leader of a marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine trafficking organization that operated throughout Southern Indiana, Western Kentucky, and elsewhere. It is alleged that Torres obtained the drugs from sources in Texas and Mexico, which were then brought to Indiana for distribution by Torres and others.
The indictment further alleges an international firearms trafficking conspiracy in which Torres, a convicted felon unable to legally purchase firearms, would solicit individuals to acquire weapons on his behalf. This practice is commonly known as making a "straw purchase," and the indictment alleges that Torres compensated these individuals by trading money and/or drugs for the firearms.
Following the straw purchases, it is alleged that Torres arranged for the firearms to be transported to members of the "Gulf Cartel" in Texas and Mexico. The Gulf Cartel, also known as the "Cartel Del Golfo," is an international criminal organization responsible for armed, violent drug trafficking and other criminal activities in Mexico and the United States. Members of the "Gulf Cartel" have been known to be heavily armed, and often use guns in connection with their criminal activities, which in the past have included kidnapping, murder, robbery, and extortion.
All told, the indictment alleges that Torres engaged in the straw purchase of at least 15 rifles and 29 assault rifles at various federally licensed firearms dealers in Greenwood, Plainfield, and Indianapolis. These weapons were then allegedly transported to Texas, and on to Mexico. In one instance, law enforcement officers in Texas recovered a duffel bag on the banks of the Rio Grande River that contained assault rifles, other firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and an improvised explosive device. A number of firearms recovered at the scene have been traced back to purchases allegedly orchestrated by Torres.
The individuals named in the indictment include the following, with their alleged offenses listed below:
Hermion Torres, a/k/a "Bear" or "Oso," age 35, of Seymour
Drug conspiracy; Firearms trafficking conspiracy; Felon in possession of a firearm; Firearm straw purchase (three counts)
David Lane, age 40, of Columbus
Firearm straw purchase (two counts); Possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute
Regina Compton, age 40, of Columbus
Firearm straw purchase (two counts)
Christopher Baker, age 37, of Franklin
Firearm straw purchase
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew P. Brookman, who is prosecuting the case for the government, Torres faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if found guilty on the drug conspiracy charge, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Torres also faces up to 5 years in prison if found guilty of the firearms trafficking conspiracy charge. Each count of being a felon in possession of a firearm carries with it a maximum sentence of 10 years and a possible $250,000 fine. The straw purchase charges similarly carry a 10 year maximum sentence. Lane's methamphetamine possession charge has a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison if he is found guilty, with a maximum penalty of life.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.