FRENSO, CA – United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams announced today that Sokha Bhopal, aka Balwinder Singh Bhopal, 51, of Punjab, India, was sentenced on March 14, 2011, to seven years and two months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release for conspiring to distribute cocaine and possessing cocaine with intent to distribute.
This case stemmed from an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation conducted by the DEA, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Kern County Sheriff’s Office. OCDETF is a focused interagency program investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar prosecuted the case.
Bhopal pleaded guilty on April 19, 2010 and acknowledged that he had negotiated the purchase of 85 kilograms of cocaine for shipment to Canada. Following the negotiations, Bhopal and his co-defendants Thai Hoang Nguyen, 34, of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada; Davinder Singh, 42, of Delta, British Columbia, Canada; and Vath Lim, 36, of El Monte, Calif.; brought two suitcases filled with approximately $1,253,500 to a Bakersfield hotel for delivery to an undercover agent posing as a seller. Another $106,806 was seized from Bhopal’s bank account. All of the seized monies were seized by DEA, with the lion’s share given back to Kern County Sheriff’s Office for use in law enforcement-related activities.
Defendant Nguyen was sentenced to eight years and one month in federal prison. Singh and Lim were each sentenced to five years in prison.