Thirty-Three Indicted Following Major Drug Investigation
JUN 18 -- HUNTSVILLE, AL - Greg Borland, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and United States Attorney Alice H. Martin announced today that thirty-three individuals in connection with a major long-term drug investigation have been indicted in a 138-count indictment in U.S. District Court. The investigation stretched from Morgan and Madison counties and other areas in the Northern District of Alabama to Texas, California, and Mexico. The indictment follows the May 16, 2008, arrest of thirteen individuals in the same investigation, and all of those individuals are included in the indictment.
All of the defendants are charged with Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, and Marijuana. The 138-count indictment charges the following individuals with this conspiracy which occurred from approximately September, 2004, through on or about May 16, 2008:
Luis Martin AGUILAR, 32, Apple Valley, California;
The maximum possible penalty for the charged conspiracy is a term of imprisonment of not less than 10 years and not more than life in prison, a fine of up to $4,000,000, and a term of supervised release of not less than 5 years. Any term of supervised release for this or any other offense in the indictment for which a defendant is convicted will be served after the defendants release from prison.
In separate counts, Edy de la PENA, Reco WILLINGHAM, and Galdino ZAMORA are also charged with conducting a Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) during the same period. This charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of not less than 20 years and not more than life in prison, a fine of up to $2,000,000, and a term of supervised release of not more than 5 years.
The indictment also charges several of the defendants in various counts with money laundering offenses. These defendants are AYALA, BERNAL, COMACHO, HARRIS, Edy de la PENA, Pete de la PENA, SANCHEZ, SMITH, TERRY, Reco WILLINGHAM, and ZAMORA. These charges carry a statutory penalty of not more than 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered money, whichever is greater, and a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years.
In separate counts, EVANS, Reco WILLINGHAM, and ZAMORA are charged with Possession of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Drug Trafficking Offense. If convicted on this charge, each defendant would be sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison which would have to run consecutively to any sentence imposed for convictions on drug trafficking charges. ZAMORA is also charged with being an Illegal Alien in Possession of a Firearm, and EVANS, is charged with being a Felon in Possession of Firearms. Both of these so-called “prohibited persons” offenses carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years.
The indictment also charges numerous defendants in multiple counts with Use of a Communications Facility, specifically a telephone, in the Commission of a Drug Trafficking Offense. Each of these charges carries a statutory penalty of not more than 4 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of not more than 1 year.
The indictment also charges some defendants with substantive drug trafficking offenses, including, distribution of controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, and attempt to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. All of the defendants are also charged in asset forfeiture counts which could require the defendants, if convicted, to forfeit property which was the proceeds of or was used to facilitate their drug trafficking activities and could require the defendants to forfeit substitute assets if such property cannot be located, is outside the jurisdiction of the United States, has substantially diminished in value, or cannot be easily separated from other property.
To date, the investigation, including 11 federal search warrants executed on May 16, 17, and 22, 2008, has resulted in the seizure of approximately 35 kilograms of cocaine, 85 pounds of marijuana, over $400,000.00 in currency, numerous firearms, and at least eighteen vehicles.
"The success of this complex investigation is a testimony to the outstanding working relationship between the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Madison-Morgan County HIDTA Task Force, the Huntsville Police Department, the Decatur Police Department, the Morgan County Sheriffs Department Drug Task Force, the Lauderdale County Drug Task Force, the Lawrence County Sheriffs Department, the Colbert County Drug Task Force,” stated Greg Borland, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Agency. Borland went on to say, “By combining forces, they have managed to completely dismantle an organization that utilized the trucking industry to smuggle more than 250 kilograms of cocaine and thousands of pounds of marijuana from Mexico to Northern Alabama, and to smuggle millions of dollars in bulk currency back to Mexico. Clearly, these arrests and seizures will significantly affect the availability of drugs in the area."
“This joint state, local and federal investigation was headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration and was worked with the Huntsville/Madison County HIDTA - High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area-Program” stated U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin. “This investigation and the indictment which was released today will significantly impact a large drug trafficking organization which has been operating in the Northern District of Alabama and has been receiving large quantities of drugs from Texas, California, and Mexico. All of the investigators are to be commended for their hard work and long hours in bringing this case to indictment and working to keep these illegal drugs off our streets.”
"This case is a prime example of multi-agency cooperation and coordination,” stated Rex Reynolds, Huntsville Director of Public Safety. “The collaborative efforts of DEA, HIDTA, and other law enforcement agencies demonstrates how this kind of cooperation can make a difference and have a significant impact on drug trafficking in our community."
Thirteen of these defendants appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Harwell G. Davis, III on May 19, 2008, and most of these remain in the custody of the United States Marshal’s Service. The majority of the remaining defendants were arrested today. Arraignments for all of the defendants has not yet been set, but is expected to be set shortly.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Huntsville/Madison County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area-Program (HIDTA), Morgan County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Unit, Decatur Police Department, U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Lawrence County Drug Task Force, Lauderdale County Drug Task Force, Colbert County Drug Task Force, U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board as well as other law enforcement officers, and is being prosecuted by Russell Penfield, Assistant United States Attorney, on behalf of the government.
Members of the public are reminded that a Criminal Indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
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