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Two California Men Sentenced to Combined Total of Over 13 Years in Prison for Drug Trafficking Charges

JUL 30 (FORT SMITH, 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 Elijah Buckhalter and Alberto Gonzalez were sentenced today to a combined total of over 13 years in federal prison for drug trafficking charges.  Buckhalter, age 23, of Compton, California was sentenced to 24 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine. Gonzalez, age 33, of Lynwood, California was sentenced to 140 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and 140 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute more than 500 grams of Methamphetamine. The sentences are to run concurrent with each other. 

“We will continue to attack the scourge of methamphetamine distribution in Arkansas and beyond,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge David Downing.  “The lengthy sentencing of these defendants should be taken as a message to those who want to sell drugs.  We are going to catch you and put you in prison for a long time if you distribute this poison in our communities. ”

U.S. Attorney Eldridge commented, “The dream that these drug traffickers envisioned of bringing large quantities of methamphetamine into our state and setting up shop came to an end today.  Arkansas children and families deserve a safe place to live without the threat of crime and violence that this type of criminal activity brings.  Today’s sentence should send a message loud and clear to others that commit these crimes that our office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and aggressively prosecute them.”

The DEA and 4th Judicial District Drug Task Force had been conducting an investigation involving the transportation of methamphetamine from the Compton, California area to Springdale, Arkansas. During the investigation, they were made aware of a source of supply, later positively identified as Alberto Gonzalez.  Several recorded phone calls were made to Gonzalez in October, 2014 to arrange for four pounds of meth to be transported from California to Northwest Arkansas on October 30, 2014. Gonzalez advised he would be bringing an associate, Elijah Buckhalter, from California with him and that the meth would be arriving about the same time he arrived. He said Elijah’s cousin, Jacob Buckhalter, was a truck driver and that he would pay him to transport the meth to Arkansas. On October 30 as investigators watched by surveillance, Gonzalez and a man later identified as Jonathan Madrigal got off the bus and into the car of a confidential informant who drove them to a rented hotel in Springdale.  In the car they discussed the shipment of meth that was to arrive later that day and Gonzalez indicated that he planned to set up a drug trafficking business in the northwest Arkansas area that would involve receiving large quantities from California for distribution in Arkansas. He stated Madrigal and Elijah Buckhalter would be staying in Arkansas to help with the distribution of the meth.  The confidential informant left the hotel and advised that Gonzalez and Madrigal were going to wait for Elijah and Jacob to arrive.  Gonzalez wanted the informant to come back to the hotel once Elijah arrived to pick up money to pay Jacob and to transport Elijah and the meth back to the hotel.  The informant went back to the hotel and picked up Gonzalez and traveled to a truck stop in Springdale where they met with Elijah and took bags out of the truck and placed in the informant’s vehicle.  The informant and Gonzalez got back in the vehicle and traveled to the Dollar General Store where they were going to purchase bags to break down the meth into smaller quantities. Once in the store, the informant called officers who arrived and arrested both of them while other officers arrested Elijah and Jacob Buckhalter and Madrigal who were near the hotel.  The officers located a red and black bag containing the suspected meth inside the vehicle.  The substance field tested positive for meth and weighed approximately four pounds.  The suspected meth was sent to the DEA lab where it tested to be 97% pure meth.  Both Gonzalez and Elijah Buckhalter were indicted by a federal grand jury on November 19, 2014, and both pleaded guilty on March 12, 2015. 

The third defendant, Jonathan Madrigal, age 26, of Compton, California was also indicted by a federal grand jury on November 19, 2014 and pleaded guilty on April 20, 2015.  Madrigal was charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and will be sentenced at a later date. 

These cases were investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the 4th Judicial Drug Task Force. 

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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