Former cartel member becomes successful business owner

Posted at 4:05 PM, Mar 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-23 17:10:52-04

Jesse Ocaña greets all of his customers with a handshake and a smile. His taqueria is one of the most popular places to eat in Bryan, and the community loves him and his food.

"He just like JUMPS all over you," his wife Karen Ocaña said. "His personality and the calm and the peace he has is absolutely… It’s infectious. It’s your loss if you don’t know him. "

He opened Jesse's Taqueria and Bakery in August of 2012, and since then, business has been booming.

But most people don’t know about Ocaña’s dark past. Before he was known as the owner of Jesse's, he had a different title - 418376, Jesse's state number that he got from prison.

"That number I have never left it in my life," Jessie said. "It reminds me of where I came from."

The number comes from Jesse’s time in prison for dealing cocaine for the Gulf Cartel.

"I started messing around with some big people from Mexico," he said. "They brought everything here, we’re talking in quantities, we’re not talking little ounces."

Jesse helped move pounds of cocaine into Brazos County.

"I thought I was making money for myself, but I was poisoning the whole neighborhood," Ocaña said.

But he wasn't only poisoning the neighborhood, dealing drugs eventually led Jesse to addiction.

"At the time I was a drunk, I was hooked on coke. I was fixing to throw (cocaine) into my blood, and I don’t think I’d be talking to you right now, if all that had happened," Ocaña said.

Jesse would soon be arrested after undercover police officers busted him during a sting operation. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 1986. Some people might see that as the end of their life, but Ocaña saw it as an opportunity to start a new one.

"I thank the court system, I thank the DA, I thank my judge, for really and truly saving my life. From this disease that we have," Jesse said.

Ocaña paroled out of prison after 6 years for good behavior. Now, 30 years after first walking into prison, Ocaña has his name back and is determined never to go back to being just a number.|

"Your number is your identity, that’s what they know me for there. And that’s what I know myself out here for," he said. "I just don’t wanna go back."

Now Jesse is a husband, a father and a successful business owner. His new life brings happiness to him and everyone around him, and he plans to keep it that way.'

"I remain strong, and I will be strong, for me, for my employees, for my parents, for my wife, for my customers."

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