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Leader of Drug Trafficking Conspiracy Sentenced to More Than 11 Years

MAR 17 (CHARLOTTE, N.C.) –U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose announced today that the leader of a drug trafficking conspiracy was sentenced to 135 months in prison. U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. also ordered Laurentino Benitez, 45, of Huntersville, N.C., to serve four years under court supervision after he is released from prison.

U.S. Attorney Rose is joined in making today’s announcement by Daniel R. Salter, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which oversees the Charlotte District Office.

According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, from at least 2013 to about May 2015, Benitez was the leader of a drug ring responsible for trafficking large amounts of narcotics, including cocaine, heroin and marijuana, to the Charlotte area. Court records show that the drugs were sent to North Carolina from Texas and Mexico by other members of the conspiracy, usually concealed in vehicles or inside electronic goods. Once delivered to Charlotte, court records show that the drugs were redistributed locally to other members of the conspiracy. Benitez previously admitted in court documents that he was responsible for trafficking between 15 to 50 kilograms of cocaine.

According to court records, over the course of the conspiracy law enforcement seized from Benitez multiple firearms, including a shotgun, six pistols and ammunition, and over $866,820 in illegal drug proceeds. Benitez pleaded guilty in October 2015 to one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

Benitez has been in federal custody since April 2015 and will be transferred to the custody of Federal Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his sentence upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

Five others have been charged in connection with the drug conspiracy. They are: Henry Adams, Jr., Roberto Pineda-Alberran, Charles Potts, Jason Taylor, and Sidney Truesdale. Adams was previously sentenced to 24 months in prison and three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. Potts, Taylor and Truesdale have also each pleaded guilty to the same charge and are currently awaiting sentencing. Pineda-Alberran has pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy and is awaiting sentencing.

The investigation was handled by DEA. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dana Washington of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte is prosecuting the case.

The DEA encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justthinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.


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