News Release
January 15, 2010
Contact: Chuvalo J. Truesdell
Number: 404-893-7124

"Operation Shooting Star" Results in Three Dozen Prison Sentences
Ledgers of Drug Co-Conspirators Showed $190 Million in Drug Proceeds in Only 10 Months

JAN 15 --ATLANTA, GA - After convicting four defendants during two separate trials and accepting guilty pleas from 36 other defendants, United States District Judge Charles A. Pannell has imposed sentence on all but one defendant in the two-year prosecution resulting from the David G. Wilhelm OCDETF Strike Force’s investigation named “Operation Shooting Star.”  The latest sentence, handed down today, was a 300-month federal prison sentence for JULIO CESAR AVALOS-CERPAS, 35, from Mexico, for his role as a leader of a distribution “cell.” The sentences that Judge Pannell imposed on the other defendants ranged from 16 months to life in prison. There is no parole in the federal system.

Acting United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates stated, “These forty convictions show the results that are achieved when federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies work together to stem the flow of poison into this country and to stop the cross-border flow of cash to violent, greed-driven cartel members in Mexico.” 
According to Acting United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court related that between November 2006 and December 2007, members of a large, sophisticated cocaine trafficking organization linked to Mexican drug cartels used the metro Atlanta area as the transshipment point for more than 7,000 kilograms of cocaine. 
Seized ledgers showed that during this period, organization members collected at least $193,129,208 in drug proceeds in the Atlanta area, transported those funds through the Southeastern United States, and smuggled them across the United States/Mexico border to pay cartel leaders in charge of operations.  During the course of the investigation, agents intercepted telephone calls over approximately 53 telephones; searched at least 30 locations; and seized more than $10 million in cash, 383 kilograms of cocaine, and 30 firearms, including assault rifles, shotguns, and handguns with 30-round magazines. 
Judge Pannell imposed the following sentences today and over the past 11 months:


Manuel Magana-Sagrero    37           Life                               10 years       
Jose Magana-Zavala           34           384 months                   10 years       
Angel Haro-Perez               29           324 months                     5 years
Kevin Jimenez-Castillo      35           324 months                     5 years

Joaquin Suarez-Flores          30            304 months                   5 years
Julio Cesar Avalos Cerpas    34           300 months                   5 years
Julian Ortuna-Herrera           26           292 months                   5 years
Jose Macias-Martinez           49           292 months                   5 years
Jose Tapia-Corneso               41           288 months                   5 years
Hector Vargas-Madrigal       47           262 months                   10 years       
J. Jesus Torres-Ochoa           39           262 months                   10 years       
Jose Mendoza-Solorzano      23           235 months                    5 years
Jose Jesus Espinoza Faria     25           248 months                    5 years
Leopoldo Castanda-Herrera  42           248 months                    5 years        
Arturo Torres-Zaragoza        25           248 months                    5 years
Francisco Vega-Santana       38           235 months                    5 years
Salvador Gonzalez-Flores    22           216 months                     5 years
Damian Lopez-Gonzalez      24           211 months                    5 years
Mario Alberto Guerrero-Martinez 35  195 months                    5 years
Marco Antonio Rodriguez-Magana 36 188 months                   5 years
Aurelio Chavez Maldonado  25          188 months                     5 years
Eneyda Romero-Molina       40           181 months                     5 year 
Jose Luis Benitez-Tornes     30           168 months                     5 years
Ramiro Ochoa Penaloza       39           168 months                     5 years
Alejandro Gutierrez-Beiza    30           151 months                    5 years
Antero Pineda-Camacho       51           151 months                    5 years
Jesus Garcia-Corona             27            149 months                   5 years
Raul Amado Luna-Mejia      23            144 months                   5 years
Alfonso Rodriguez Franco    49            144 months                   5 years
Martin Magana-Bernal          37            121 months                   5 years
Roberto Espinoza-Cerda       29            120 months                   5 years
Nahu Barajas-Duarte             29             97 months                    5 years
Juan Aguiar-Martinez            33             97 months                    5 years
Felipe Santana                       30              63 months                   2 years 
Victor Gonzalez-Flores         20              60 months                   3 years
Fausto Villa-Mojica               51              48 months                  1 year 
Carlos Alberto Gutierrez        22             46 months                   3 years
Abraham Mayor                     27             27 months                   3 years
Lorenzo Pineda-Ibarra            38            16 months                   3 years


The agents who investigated this case are assigned to the David G. Wilhelm OCDETF Strike Force and are employed by the following law enforcement agencies:  the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Marshals Service, the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the DeKalb County Police Department, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. Significant assistance in this case was provided by the Georgia State Patrol.
Assistant United States Attorneys Elizabeth M. Hathaway and Jenny Turner  prosecuted the case.

Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at, and