May 10, 2019
Contact: Erin Mulvey
Phone Number: (212) 337-2906
Three defendants sentenced for role in drug conspiracy linked to a Mexican drug cartel
BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr., and DEA New York Division Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan announced today that Max Paul Riestra, 42, who was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, five kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to commit money laundering, was sentenced to serve 216 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Adler, who handled the case, stated Riestra, a citizen of Mexico who was previously deported, utilized multiple names, including Carlos Alberto Riestra, Jesus Valdonado Castro, Jose Zamora and Jesus Ivan Riestra Delgado, in furtherance of the conspiracy.
Between 2012 and March 2016, the defendant opened multiple bank accounts that were utilized by others to structure deposits from places around the United States, including Buffalo to California. Riestra and his co-conspirators, including co-defendants Jose Manuel Lua-Guizar, Gerardo Ballardo, Enrique Munoz, Pethrod Dunnigan and Bryant Hudson, accounted for over $1,000,000 in structured deposits in Buffalo and over $10,000,000 in structured deposits nationwide during this timeframe. The defendant himself had over $1,500,000 in structured deposits made into accounts he controlled. The defendant also utilized multiple accounts to ship packages containing kilograms of cocaine from California to cities across the country including Buffalo, Denver, Chicago and New York City
Riestra is one of seven defendants involved in an illegal narcotics operation stretching from Sinaloa, Mexico, to Western New York. Law enforcement officers began investigating a sophisticated drug trafficking organization with ties to a Mexican drug cartel operating out of Los Angeles, Calif., area in 2014. All seven defendants have been convicted in this case. Defendants Enrique Munoz and Jose Manuel Lua-Guizar were also recently sentenced to 63 months each. Co-defendants Gerardo Ballardo and Presiliano Garcia are the last defendants awaiting sentencing. Garcia was a Bank of America employee who opened multiple accounts for Riestra, and others.
“This case demonstrates that the activities of the Mexican cartel have a very real impact on the lives of individuals in our Western New York community,” said U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “I think too often the thought is that their drug trafficking is simply the stuff of television and movies and is somehow removed from the ugliness that we too often see on the streets in our community. That is not the case, and this prosecution should serve as a reminder that this office, with our law enforcement partners, will remain vigilant in doing all that we can to protect our community from the scourge that the cartel seeks to spread throughout our country.”
The sentencings are the culmination of an investigation on the part of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Buffalo Resident Office; Homeland Security Investigations; and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. Additional assistance was provided by ICE-HSI in Los Angeles, Calif., and Bank of America.
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