Top Cartel Member Arrested in Mexico May be Linked to Missing Odessa Men

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - A top drug cartel member arrested in Mexico over the weekend could be linked in the case of three men missing out of Odessa.

It's been five months since anyone has seen 22-year-old Barnaby Gabaldon, his father or brother-in-law.

The trio took a trip to Ojinaga, Mexico, back in February, and were last seen being pulled over by Mexican police.

On Tuesday, an official with the Midland DEA confirmed to NewsWest 9, a possible link in the case to 32-year-old Benjamin Valeriano Jr.

He was arrested over the weekend in Mexico, and is considered a top member of the "La Linea" drug cartel.

The agent NewsWest 9 spoke with said they've suspected Valeriano may have had something to do with the men's disappearance but there's no information at this time to confirm that.

Meanwhile, Resident Agent-in-Charge Dante Sorianello said the arrest will have a huge impact in West Texas.

"He was engaged in a conspiracy of drug trafficking that was going on here in the West Texas area," Sorianello said. "A lot of these drug trafficking groups have support and logistic networks operating in our area."

Valeriano was indicted on several drug charges in a DEA raid back in February.

Now with a top member off the streets, Sorianello said they can use that to their advantage.

"A lot of times individuals who are up-and-comers may not have the experience or street sense of some of the people that are being replaced," he said.

But even so, the war on drugs will go on.

"It is a blow to them but like any business or criminal organization, someone will rise up and take their place," Sorianello said.

Valeriano was born in Pecos but was living in a wealthy neighborhood in Mexico when he was caught.

We're told he has drug cases in West Texas dating back to 10 years ago when he was just 22 years old.