May 24, 2018
Contact: SA John Leonard
Phone Number: (314) 538-4600
DEA In Springfield, Missouri Achieve Significant Prison Sentences For Two Recent Investigations
ST. LOUIS - Matthew R. Barden, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA St. Louis Division, today announced two significant prison sentences handed down by the U.S. Courts as the result of great investigative work by the DEA Springfield, Missouri office. Santiago Soto-Garcia, 25, of Joplin, received a 25-year prison sentence in one case while Adriana Gutierrez-Ramirez, 43, a citizen of Mexico but residing in Phoenix, Arizona received a 10-year prison sentence in another case. These sentences originated from two different drug investigations that were charged, convicted, and sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
“This is another example of the excellent work of law enforcement to rid our communities of dangerous drug traffickers,” Acting Agent in Charge Barden said. He added, “Drug dealers and traffickers willingly violate the law in order to profit off others pain. They bring poison into our neighborhoods with no regard for their actions. Let this be a warning for anyone who sells, distributes or transports drugs; we will find you, we will stop you and we will bring you to justice.”
Investigators began looking into Soto-Garcia in February of 2015 and quickly identified him and his associates were multi-pound dealers of crystal meth in the Joplin area. In August 2015, Soto-Garcia and Destiny O’Brien, 21, of Joplin, MO and Michael Gonzalez, 25, of Texas, were stopped by the Joplin Police Department on a traffic stop. Soto-Garcia was the driver of the vehicle, O’Brien was the front passenger and Gonzalez was a passenger in the backseat behind O’Brien. The officer observed two handguns on the floorboard of the car in front of Gonzalez. A loaded Hi-Point .40 caliber pistol and a loaded Kel-Tec .223 caliber pistol were removed after the occupants were ordered out of the vehicle. A narcotic detecting K9, called to the scene, noted a presence of the odor of narcotics. The officer tried to open the vehicle, but found Soto-Garcia had locked it using the key fob. A physical struggle began as the officer attempted to retrieve the key fob from Soto-Garcia. Soto-Garcia threw the fob underneath the patrol car. O’Brien also engaged in a struggle with the officer trying to recover the key fob. The suspects were taken into custody, at which point the officer was able to unlock the car and found a backpack containing approximately one pound of crystal meth. Gonzalez was then placed under arrest. Later that day investigators searched Soto-Garcia’s residence as well as a “stash” residence known to be used by Soto-Garcia. Officers seized a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun, a Tanfoglio .40-caliber handgun, a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun, a North American Arms 22-caliber magnum revolver, ammunition, a bullet-proof vest, a money counter, and approximately five grams of crystal meth from Soto-Garcia’s residence. Seized from the “stash” residence was a Phoenix Arms .22-caliber handgun and approximately 852.3 grams of crystal. The DEA, Federal Bureau of (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and (ATF), the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Joplin Police Department, and the Ozark Drug Enforcement Team all contributed to the success of this investigation.
In a separate case, Adriana Gutierrez-Ramirez was sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of at least 500 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute. Missouri State Highway Patrol stopped Gutierrez-Ramirez, a citizen of Mexico residing in Phoenix, and her co-defendant Luis Duarte, 60, also a citizen of Mexico residing in Phoenix, as they traveled through the Springfield, Missouri metro area. During that traffic stop, troopers found approximately 5 kilograms of cocaine inside a rented 2016 Ford F350. Duarte told investigators an unknown individual in Phoenix paid him $1,500 to rent a truck and drive it to Ohio. According to Duarte, when he got into the rented truck Gutierrez-(whom he had never met) was seated inside. Duarte later told investigators that he expected to receive cash payment once he arrived in Ohio after delivering the truck. Duarte was sentenced to 29 months in prison in January following his conviction for possession of at least 500 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute. The DEA, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement all worked together on this investigation.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri prosecuted both these cases, which were sentenced in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.