DEC 15 -- TUCSON, Ariz. – Victor Flores, 51, was extradited to the U.S. from Hermosillo, Mexico and had his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Marshall on Tuesday, December 14. The defendant will be detained until his trial on February 8, 2011 in front of Chief Judge John Roll.
Flores was to face trial in 2001 on cocaine charges related to a Naco, Ariz. drug tunnel that the defendants used to smuggle 20 tons of cocaine from its inception in 1996 until May 1999 when the tunnel was discovered.
Flores is charged in seven counts of the indictment with a variety of drug and gun violations and he is alleged to have possessed, with intent to distribute, over 6,660 lbs of cocaine. An additional count alleges that he possessed three fully automatic machine guns to guard the load.
“The defendant fled to Mexico thinking that he was beyond the reach of this country’s justice system and that he would not have to stand trial for his conduct. He was wrong on both counts. This extradition brings a defendant to Arizona to stand trial and marks a significant milestone in dismantling one of the largest border drug schemes in Arizona,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke. “This defendant’s extradition is evidence of that the partnerships between the U.S and Mexico are working and that we are together gaining ground against violent drug trafficking organizations.”
The investigation began after the seizure of 5.6 tons of cocaine from a warehouse in Tucson in December 1996. During the course of the investigation an additional 2,660 lbs. of cocaine, three fully automatic machine guns and 1.5 million in cash were seized. Over fifty people connected to the Naco tunnel have been convicted and Flores was one of five that remained at large.
There have been three trials involving the Naco Tunnel thus far. Two took place in 2001 and the third in 2007. In the 2007 trial Francisco Valle-Hurtado, 38, and Ruben Ultreras-Estrada were convicted of possession with intent to distribute 17,715 lbs. of cocaine. Valle-Hurtado was also convicted of possessing a machine gun while committing the cocaine violations. He used the machine gun to guard the cocaine after it had passed through the tunnel that extended 210 feet from Mexico to Naco, Ariz. Both defendants were sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The overall investigation was conducted in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The prosecution is being handled by James T. Lacey, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.