JULY 9 (FRESNO, Calif.) —Gonzalo Esquivel, aka Gunner, 34, and Efren Steve Jiminez, aka Grande, 33, both of Los Banos; Kenneth Hernandez, aka Kenny, 30, of Dos Palos; Gustavo Moreno, aka Gus Gus, 33, and David Torres, 33, both of Madera pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine before the Honorable Lawrence J. O’Neill, United States District Court Judge, Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Special Agent in Charge Bruce C. Balzano and United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner announced. All defendants are set to be sentenced on September 30, 2013, except defendant Jiminez, who is scheduled for sentencing on October 14, 2013.
According to court documents, the defendants were members or associates of the norteno criminal street gang, which is under the control of the Nuestra Familia prison gang (“NF”). The NF utilizes the nortenos to engage in narcotics sales. Defendants Esquivel, Jiminez, and Hernandez worked together to arrange the sale of methamphetamine to defendants Moreno and Torres. Defendant Jiminez delivered the methamphetamine to defendants Moreno and Torres.
The case was the product of a joint investigation of federal, state and local agencies, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the California Department of Justice Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, Merced Multi-Agency Gang Task Force, Merced Narcotics Task Force, Los Banos Police Department, and the Merced High Intensity Drug Trafficking Unit. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly A. Sanchez.
The defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in prison, a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $10 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.