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Multiple Narcotics Trafficking Results in Significant Sentences

NOV 03 (BROWNSVILLE, Texas) - Francisco Chavez-Arriaga, 50, of San Juan, has been ordered to prison following his conviction of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 10 kilograms of methamphetamine and five kilograms of cocaine, announced Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, Houston Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.  Also sentenced today were Sabino Quiroz-Arias, 41, who previously entered a guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute 10 kilograms of methamphetamine and Orlando Giovanni-Hernandez, 29, who was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine following a three-day trial and four hours of deliberation on May 22, 2014.

At a hearing that concluded late today, U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle determined Chavez-Arriaga was a leader-organizer in the drug conspiracy and ordered to serve a total of 240 months in federal prison. Giovanni-Hernandez received 120 months while Quiroz-Arias will serve a 140-month term of imprisonment.

Chavez-Arriaga was the leader and organizer of an illegal drug trafficking conspiracy spanning from Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 4, 2013. The drug trafficking organization was based out of San Juan and coordinated marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine shipments across the U.S. border with Mexico and from coast to coast in the U.S.

In late 2012, Chavez-Arriaga received 10 kilograms of cocaine from a Mexican-based drug trafficking organization, wrapped the drugs and stored them at his residence. The drugs were to be transported to a drug trafficking organization in North Carolina. Chavez-Arriaga arranged for a truck driver From South Texas to deliver the cocaine to Natalie Hernandez, 30, of Concord, N.C.

However, when contacted by the truck driver, Hernandez stated that she could not pick up the cocaine, but advised that another woman, Nidia Ramirez-Martinez, 31, could do so and would be driving a white Volvo. Hernandez had previously called Ramirez-Martinez to see if she could pick up the narcotics. Ramirez-Martinez was with Giovanni-Hernandez at the time of the call and asked him if they could use his white Volvo to pick up the drugs. He agreed.

Ramirez-Martinez, Giovanni-Hernandez and Melanie Pretell, 28, also of Concord, drove approximately 90 miles to the truck stop. Along the way, they smoked marijuana and continued to negotiate the drug deal.  

At the location, Giovanni-Hernandez orchestrated the entire transaction with the truck driver. He received the cocaine and was planning to take it to his stash house where Hernandez was supposed to come and get it. However, he was stopped en route by local authorities, at which time Giovanni-Hernandez lied to the troopers about where he had been and made various statements trying to pass the blame onto the other co-defendants. At trial, he again re-iterated that he was not guilty and the crime was perpetrated by the others. The jury disagreed and found him guilty as charged.

In another instance in August 2013, Chavez-Arriaga was contacted by Quiroz-Arias, a narcotics trafficker from California who had recently moved to the Rio Grande Valley. Quiroz-Arias and Chavez-Arriaga met with a truck driver to arrange transport a load of 10 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine to Amarillo. The three discussed the methods of transportation and that the drugs were to be delivered to a drug trafficker known as “Rios.”

Quiroz-Arias purchased a trailer and instructed the driver to pick it up in Austin and return it to South Texas. Upon his return, the driver went to Chavez-Arriaga’s house, at which time Chavez-Arriaga placed several calls to Quiroz-Arias checking on the status of the delivery of the crystal methamphetamine. After the narcotics arrived, Chavez-Arriaga placed them in an ice chest and gave it to the truck driver for transport to Amarillo.

Law enforcement ultimately confiscated the chest and discovered 19 packages of crystal methamphetamine totaling approximately 10 kilograms. 

Chavez-Arriaga and Quiroz-Arias have been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Giovanni-Hernandez was previously released on bond pending sentencing but was taken into custody after violating his conditions of release. 

Hernandez and Ramirez-Martinez were previously sentenced to 29 and 48 months in federal prison, respectively, for their roles in the scheme. Pretell pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony and received five years of probation and was ordered to a mandatory drug treatment program. 

The charges are the result of the joint investigative efforts of Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Texas and North Carolina along with the North Carolina Highway Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Holly D’Andrea is prosecuting the overall case.

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