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Three Defendants Sentenced to Over 32 Years in Prison for Drug Trafficking

JAN 28 (FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Assistant Special Agent in Charge David Downing and Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that Leonel Padilla, Andres Diaz and Jonni Diaz were sentenced yesterday in Northwest Arkansas to a total of over 32 years in federal prison for drug trafficking offenses.  Padilla, age 27, of Springdale, was sentenced to 87 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release for Distribution of Methamphetamine; Andres Diaz, age 49, of Barstow, California, was sentenced to 180 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for Distribution of Methamphetamine; and Jonni Diaz, age 47, of Barstow, California, was sentenced to 120 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for Aiding and Abetting the Distribution of Methamphetamine.  The Honorable Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearings in the United States District Court in Fayetteville. 

“Methamphetamine brings turmoil into the lives of those who are addicted to or live around it,” stated David Downing, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Little Rock District Office.  “The sentences imposed in this case should be a warning to anyone thinking of polluting our communities with this addictive substance.  DEA, along with our law enforcement partners are committed to investigating illegal organizations that profit from the distribution of methamphetamine and other illegal and dangerous narcotics,” said Downing.

United States Attorney Eldridge commented, “These sentences handed down represent significant prison time for those that brought methamphetamine onto our streets and into our communities.  Drug trafficking and the violence it brings will not be tolerated in Northwest Arkansas, or anywhere across the Western District.  We remain steadfast in our commitment to keeping our children and our communities safe from drugs and other illegal activities by assuring that those responsible for this type of criminal behavior will be brought to justice.”

According to court records, investigators with the DEA were conducting an ongoing narcotics investigation known as “West End Gambler” into an organization that was involved in distributing large quantities of methamphetamine in Northwest Arkansas when they determined Leonel Padilla to be a suspect.  During the investigation, DEA agents arranged a controlled purchase of approximately one ounce of methamphetamine on August 9, 2013 in Siloam Springs, Arkansas from Padilla in exchange for $1,500.  DEA agents recovered the methamphetamine and sent it to the DEA Crime Laboratory where testing confirmed the substance contained actual methamphetamine.  Padilla entered a plea of guilty to one count of Distribution of Methamphetamine on April 7, 2014.

Agents from the DEA began another investigation in March of 2014 after learning that large quantities of methamphetamine were being distributed out of the Springdale, Arkansas area by an individual named Andres Diaz.  DEA agents utilized a confidential informant to conduct a recorded conversation with Diaz on March 11, 2014, where Diaz agreed to meet with the informant’s friend who was looking to obtain large quantities of methamphetamine.  As a result, a Task Force Officer with the DEA, acting in an undercover capacity, placed several phone calls and exchanged text messages with Diaz where Diaz agreed to meet with the undercover officer and provide him or her with an ounce of methamphetamine in exchange for $1,400.  A few days later, agents with the DEA watched and listened as the undercover officer met with Diaz at a local business in Springdale, Arkansas where Diaz provided the undercover officer with approximately one ounce of methamphetamine in exchange for $1,400.  Diaz then provided an additional two ounces of methamphetamine to the undercover officer with the agreement that the undercover officer would pay Diaz at a later date.  The methamphetamine was sent to the DEA Crime Laboratory where it was determined that the substance sold did contain actual methamphetamine.  Andres Diaz was arrested on April 18, 2014, and at that time agreed to provide a statement to officers regarding his drug trafficking activities.  During the interview, Andres Diaz admitted to the distribution of methamphetamine in Springdale, Arkansas.  Andres Diaz pleaded guilty to one charge of Distribution of Methamphetamine on September 22, 2014.

While investigating Andres Diaz, and as a result of the same recorded conversation that took place on March 11, 2014, a Task Force Officer with the DEA, acting in an undercover capacity, placed several phone calls and exchanged text messages with Andres Diaz.  Through the text messages, Diaz agreed to meet with the undercover officer on March 26, 2014, and provide him or her with two ounces of methamphetamine in exchange for $2,400.  On March 26, 2014, other agents with the DEA watched and listened as the undercover officer went to a local business in Springdale, Arkansas to meet with Andres Diaz.  Once there, the officer noticed Diaz’s vehicle in the parking lot.  Andres Diaz was driving the vehicle and Jonni Diaz was sitting in the front passenger seat.  During the transaction, Andres Diaz placed two ounces of methamphetamine onto Jonni Diaz’s purse, which was sitting in her lap.  Jonni Diaz then picked up the methamphetamine and handed it to the undercover officer.  The undercover officer then paid Andres Diaz for the methamphetamine.  The substance was sent to the DEA Crime Laboratory where it was determined the substance did contain actual methamphetamine.  Jonni Diaz was arrested on April 18, 2014, and agreed to provide a statement regarding her drug trafficking activities. During the interview, Jonni Diaz then admitted to aiding and abetting in the distribution of methamphetamine.  Jonni Diaz pleaded guilty to one charge of Aiding and Abetting the Distribution of Methamphetamine on July 31, 2014.

These cases were investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Springdale Police Department, and the Fayetteville Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Clay Fowlkes prosecuted the cases for the United States.

Parents and children are encouraged to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.JustThinkTwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.

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