News Release
April 14, 2008

Five Guilty In Cocaine, Money Laundering Conspiracies

APR 14 -- (Providence, RI) - A federal jury in Providence has convicted two men for their roles in smuggling 29 kilograms of cocaine from California to New England. Last May, DEA agents and Massachusetts State Police seized the cocaine from an SUV near Springfield, Massachusetts, after the drugs had been unloaded from a tractor-trailer from California. Three other defendants have pleaded guilty to their roles in the drug trafficking ring.

June W. Stansbury, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforecment Administration in New England and United States Attorney Robert Clark Corrente announced the guilty verdicts, which the jury returned April 11, following a week-long trial before U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith in U.S. District Court, Providence. The jury found Adolfo Verdugo, 41, of Pomona California, and Rafael Fernandez-Roque, 30, address unknown, guilty of conspiracy.

In November, Omar Altamarino-Nunez, 30, who goes by the alias Juan Carlos, admitted arranging the cocaine deal with Verdugo, and driving from Providence to the Springfield area with Roque and another defendant, Idelfonso Betancourt-Rodriguez, to pick up the cocaine, which Verdugo had hauled from California, mixed in with a shipment of produce.

Nunez also admitted that, in December 2006, he arranged to deliver a truck containing $129,000 in proceeds from previous drug deals to another defendant, Juan Manuel Casillas, who was to drive the truck from Providence to California. Rhode Island State Police seized the cash from that truck after stopping it for a traffic violation.

During the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary E. Rogers presented evidence that, in May 2007, Altamarino, using the alias Juan Carlos, had cell phone conversations with Verdugo, arranging to meet Verdugo to pick up a shipment of cocaine. On May 29, Verdugo told Altamarino to meet him “where the Simpsons live,” a coded reference to Springfield, Massachusetts and the cartoon characters, the Simpsons, who live in a fictional town called Springfield.

Altamarino, Roque, and Betancourt drove to Springfield in two vehicles, Altamarino in a mini-van, and Betancourt and Roque in a borrowed Jeep Cherokee. At a rest area north of Springfield, the Cherokee parked between two trucks, and left after about a minute, with federal agents monitoring. Massachusetts State Police and DEA agents stopped the Jeep Cherokee, seized a black bag containing bricks of cocaine, and arrested Betancourt and Roque.

A state trooper questioned Verdugo at the rest area. He claimed that he was delivering produce to a Massachusetts location and, although one of four cell phones in his truck had communicated with Altamarino’s cell phone, he was let go as the investigation continued. In July, Newport Police Detective Michael S. Naylor, assigned to the DEA Task Force, flew to California and arrested Verdugo. Verdugo admitted to Detective Naylor his role in the conspiracy.

In November, Altamarino pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy, and to illegally reentering the United States from Mexico; he is scheduled to be sentenced on July 18. In February, Betancourt pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 6. The jury found Roque and Verdugo guilty of conspiracy. They are scheduled to be sentenced August 29.

In February, Casillas 54, of Chula Vista, California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money, admitting that, in December 2006, he picked up a truck containing $129,000 in Providence, with instructions to drive it to California. Casillas is scheduled to be sentenced on June 20.

All five defendants are detained.

The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the investigation, with assistance from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Rhode Island State Police, and Massachusetts State Police.