Idalia Ramos Rangel

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Idalia Ramos Rangel
Idalia Ramos Rangel - circa 2013.png
Picture taken circa 2013
Idalia Ramos Rangel

(1955-05-20) 20 May 1955 (age 64)
Other names
  • Big Momma
  • La Tía
OccupationCommercial business owner
EmployerGulf Cartel (suspected)
Criminal charge
  • Drug trafficking
Criminal statusFugitive
Wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with a US$25,000 bounty

Idalia Ramos Rangel (born 20 May 1955) is a Mexican commercial business owner and suspected drug lord. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), she is a high-ranking member of the Gulf Cartel, a criminal group based in Tamaulipas, Mexico. In the cartel, Ramos Rangel is known by her aliases Big Momma and La Tía (The Aunt). She has reportedly been responsible for coordinating international drug trafficking shipments from Mexico to the United States since the mid-1980s. Her role in organized crime is unique, as that drug trafficking is a male-dominated industry and she has been active for several decades.

Ramos Rangel is wanted in the states of Texas and Arkansas for her alleged involvement in drug trafficking. According to multiple federal indictments, Ramos Rangel has employed family members to distribute cocaine in the United States on her behalf. She has also employed inmates from U.S. federal facilities to help her distribute drugs, after their release from prison. Investigators believe she is hiding in Matamoros, her hometown and center of operations. The FBI is offering a US$25,000 bounty to anyone providing information that leads to her arrest and conviction.

Early life and career[edit]

Idalia Ramos Rangel was born in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, on 20 May 1955. She has naturally black hair and brown eyes and is of Hispanic descent.[1] According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Ramos Rangel has been responsible for coordinating international drug trafficking activities from Mexico to the United States since the mid-1980s.[2][3] She is reportedly a high-ranking member of the Tamaulipas-based Gulf Cartel, and operates primarily out of Matamoros,[4] where investigators believe she may be hiding.[5] She is a particularly unusual figure in organized crime circles, given her involvement over several decades in the male-dominated Mexican drug trafficking industry.[6]

In her FBI profile, Idalia Ramos Rangel is described as being between 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m) and 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) tall, and weighing between 130 lb (59 kg) and 150 lb (68 kg). Ramos Rangel has altered her physical appearance multiple times, by dying her hair blonde and through plastic surgery. The FBI suspects that the pictures they have of her on file may be outdated, and that her appearance may have changed again.[1][7] Among other personal details in her FBI profile,[6] she is described as having been a commercial business owner running multiple businesses in Mexico, which included a sports bar in Matamoros. Investigators have stated that Ramos Rangel is a regular Facebook user, and that she travels to Monterrey, Nuevo León for pleasure. She is a breast cancer survivor.[1]

Idalia Ramos Rangel uses multiple identities and aliases, including Big Momma, La Tía (The Aunt), Soria Cano, Idalia Ramos Martinez, Idalia Martinez, Idalia Gonzales Perez, Idalia Ramos Rangel, Idalia Ramos, Idelia Ramos Rangel, Idalia Rangel, and Idelia Ramos Ramos. Her current whereabouts are unknown, and the FBI is offering a $25,000 bounty for information leading to her arrest and conviction.[1] She faces federal drug charges in the states of Texas and Arkansas, and has been a fugitive of United States justice since the 1980s.[2][8]

In the late 1990s, U.S. authorities searched a home in Brownsville, Texas during an anti-marijuana operation. The agents were investigating a Mexican drug trafficking ring smuggling marijuana through Mexico, South Texas, Houston, and other parts of the United States. The investigators discovered inside the house that Ramos Rangel was living there. US$15,000 in cash was found in a trash can with a list of apparent drug transactions. Ramos Rangel refused to cooperate with questioning. She was arrested; not on drug charges but because she was in the country illegally. She had already served a prison sentence in the United States for a previous drug offense, and had been deported and ordered never to return to the country. Ramos Rangel was a low-level criminal during that time. In subsequent years, she rose through the leadership ranks of the Gulf Cartel.[9]

United States officials have issued extradition requests to the Mexican government since her ascent, but acknowledge the legal difficulties of the process.[10] The FBI-led case against Ramos Rangel began in 2010.[11] With the joint participation of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the FBI's case has yielded arrests in Arkansas, Brownsville and Austin.[12] The operation was code-named Operation Dirty Bird.[13]

Indictments and network[edit]

In April 2011, Cameron County Sheriff's Office in Brownsville seized 30 kg (66 lb) of cocaine heading to Chicago, Illinois. According to several witnesses who testified to law enforcement, the cocaine shipment was owned by Ramos Rangel. A Brownsville drug trafficker, Julio Cesar Cardenas, was involved in the scheme, helping a co-conspirator move Ramos Rangel's drug load. Cardenas assisted by storing 3 kg (6.6 lb) of the cocaine. After police seized the drugs, Cardenas advised the co-conspirator on how to deal with Ramos Rangel, recommending the use of violence, specifically kidnappings and bombs, to settle disputes with her gangsters.[14]

On 2 May 2013, Ramos Rangel was indicted by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas for several drug trafficking offenses, including possession of narcotics with intent to distribute them; cocaine trafficking; and using a telephone to coordinate drug trafficking activities. A federal warrant for her arrest was issued that day in Arkansas. The indictment unsealed in court on 14 May.[15] In a superseding indictment released on 6 June 2013 to other criminals, Ramos Rangel was issued another federal arrest warrant in Arkansas following the arrest of several of her alleged associates.[1] The indictments stated that in or around June 2008, Ramos Rangel and 15 of her associates (later updated to 17 with a superseding indictment released on 2 April 2014) knowingly possessed with intent to distribute at least 5 kg (11 lb) of cocaine.[16][17] Ramos Rangel's network was accused of distributing over 100 kg (220 lb) of cocaine in Arkansas. Ramos Rangel was identified as the lead conspirator.[1] She employed her children and other relatives to work under her.[18]

Ramos Rangel reportedly coordinated with her son Mohammed Kazam Martinez ("Mo"), who was imprisoned at the Federal Correction Institution in Forest City, Arkansas, to help recruit inmates to assist in distributing cocaine for her network upon their release from prison.[a][20] Among those inmates were Emmanuel Ilo ("Chi") and Mervin Johnson ("Slim"), who distributed cocaine for her in central Arkansas after they were released.[21] Ramos Rangel's son used the prison's telephone system and emails to communicate with other members of her network.[20][22] In one telephone conversation with Johnson, Martinez mentions her mother's role in the conspiracy while discussing a drug debt. "You owe Big Momma some money," he said. "If you keep f***ing up, they gonna cut everybody off. You are gonna f**k [Ilo] and me up because of you." This recorded conversation was mentioned in Ramos Rangel's indictment.[23]

Other members of Ramos Rangel's network included her son Homar Martinez, Manuel Garza ("Manny"), Jaime Benavides, her daughter Nishme Martinez ("La Gorda"), Denice Duran Martinez, Yadira Anahy Martinez, Leobarda Jaime Ugalde ("Leo") and Juan Alonso Morales.[24][25] They helped Ramos Rangel by securing cocaine deliveries from Mexico and Texas to Little Rock, collecting cash drug proceeds, creating bank accounts and depositing/withdrawing the money, acting as liaisons to other drug dealers in Mexico and the U.S., and smuggling the cash earnings themselves back into Mexico.[4][24] Ramos Rangel used local redistributors who sold the cocaine in Arkansas. Through Ilo, her network worked with local dealers such as Dwatney Noid, Dwight McLittle ("D.A."), Lamont Williams ("Peter Rabbit"), Gerard Trice ("Fly"), Tarvars Honorable ("Pudgy"), and Shanieka Tatum, who distributed directly to buyers. All of Ramos Rangel's associates purposely concealed the nature of their activities and used coded languages and counter surveillance to avoid law enforcement detection.[26]

Authorities described the case against Ramos Rangel as atypical since it involved an international criminal group, coordination among federal inmates, and a large cocaine supply in Arkansas. They estimate that around US$10 million worth of cocaine was supplied to Arkansas by Ramos Rangel's network.[27] If Ramos Rangel is found guilty of the conspiracy charge, she faces a mandatory 10-year sentence and up to life imprisonment. She also faces up to US$10 million in fines and five years of mandatory supervised release. If she is found guilty of possession with intent to distribute less than 500 g (18 oz) of cocaine, the sentence would be no more than 20 years, a US$1 million fine, and three years of supervised release. The charge of using a communication device to facilitate drug trafficking activities carries no more than a four-year sentence, US$250,000 in fines, and up to a year of supervised release.[15] She is considered innocent until proven guilty of the drug offenses through due process.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ When this hiring method was employed by Ramos Rangel's network, it was a relatively new tactic by Mexican drug cartels. They employ inmates who are close to finishing their sentences so that they can work for them upon their release. These inmates are not directly part of the cartel's hierarchy; they are generally regarded as "work-for-hire" members.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Idalia Ramos-Rangel". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on 18 June 2019. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Most Wanted: Idalia Ramos-Rangel". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on 23 May 2017. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  3. ^ Axford, William (14 August 2017). "The FBI's most wanted fugitive women in 2017". The Houston Chronicle.
  4. ^ a b Martinez, Laura B. (15 May 2013). "Feds: Two women linked to cartel 'Momma'". The Brownsville Herald.
  5. ^ Harten, David (14 May 2013). "Two arrested in cocaine conspiracy case". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Archived from the original on 8 June 2013.
  6. ^ a b Schiller, Dane (6 February 2015). "Authorities say fugitive 'Big Momma' is high ranking member of Gulf Cartel". San Antonio Express-News. Archived from the original on 18 September 2019.
  7. ^ Rodríguez, Ericka (17 September 2019). "Estas mujeres latinas son fugitivas y están entre las más buscadas por el FBI". Telemundo (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 18 September 2019.
  8. ^ "Leader of south Texas drug trafficking organization receives 4 life sentences". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. 10 December 2013. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017.
  9. ^ Schiller, Dane (11 February 2015). "'Big Momma' drug fugitive wasn't always a big deal". The Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 12 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Alleged Mexican cartel member charged in drug conspiracy in Arkansas". Texarkana Gazette. 15 May 2013. Archived from the original on 18 September 2019.
  11. ^ "Millions in cocaine went through Ark., 'Big Momma' ring leader". KTHV. 14 May 2013. Archived from the original on 19 September 2019.
  12. ^ Chapa, Sergio (13 May 2013). "Three arrested in Brownsville for 'Big Momma' cocaine scheme". KGBT-TV. Archived from the original on 19 September 2019.
  13. ^ "FBI agents arrested fugitive in 'Big Momma' cocaine case". KGBT-TV. 20 May 2013. Archived from the original on 18 September 2019.
  14. ^ a b Parks, Sammy (11 December 2013). "Brownsville Drug Dealer Gets Four Life Sentences". Drug Enforcement Administration.
  15. ^ a b "16 Defendants, Including Mexican Drug Cartel Members, Charged in Cocaine Conspiracy". United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. 14 May 2013. Archived from the original on 26 June 2017.
  16. ^ McCormack 2013, p. 1–2.
  17. ^ McCormack 2014, p. 1–2.
  18. ^ Carroll, Marie (14 May 2013). "16 Defendants Charged in a Drug Trafficking Operation". KUAR. National Public Radio.
  19. ^ Ferranti, Seth (9 June 2013). "Mexican Cartels Tap US Prisons to Expand Operations and Draft New Talent". The Daily Beast.
  20. ^ a b "Brothers Plead Guilty to Bringing Cocaine into Arkansas from Mexico". KLRT-TV. 2014.
  21. ^ Satter, Linda (4 November 2016). "Cartel-tied drug dealer who distributed cocaine into Arkansas gets time". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Archived from the original on 1 December 2018.
  22. ^ "Call, wiretap database at issue in Ark. drug case". The Washington Times. 15 March 2014. Archived from the original on 17 March 2014 – via The Associated Press.
  23. ^ McCormack 2013, p. 3.
  24. ^ a b McCormack 2013, p. 3–4.
  25. ^ McCormack 2014, p. 3.
  26. ^ McCormack 2013, p. 4.
  27. ^ "16 charged in Arkansas cocaine conspiracy, including Mexican drug cartel members". KATV. 11 September 2015. Archived from the original on 18 September 2019.


Further reading[edit]

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