Ringleader of Extensive Sinaloa Cartel Network Sentenced
NEWPORT NEWS, Va., – The ringleader behind an extensive drug trafficking ring was sentenced today to 33 years in prison for distributing large amounts of fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine in Newport News and North Carolina.
According to court documents, Ramiro Ramirez-Barreto, 44, from the Mexican State of Morelos, operated a continuing criminal enterprise with ties to Virginia, North Carolina, and California. Ramirez-Barreto was linked to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, as were his drug sources, and his operation supplied cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl to numerous drug trafficking organizations in Newport News, Virginia, and in Henderson and Greensboro, North Carolina. According to one of Ramirez-Barreto’s many North Carolina customers, Ramirez-Barreto supplied him with 60 kilograms of heroin from early 2018 to mid-2019. Another one of Ramirez-Barreto’s customers was an inmate in federal prison operating a drug trafficking organization in Henderson, North Carolina, using a bootleg mobile phone.
In addition to his sentence, Ramirez-Barreto was ordered to pay a forfeiture money judgment of $4,200,000 and forfeit his house in Lawrenceville.
Barreto was arrested in 2019 as a result of Operation Cookout.
Background on Operation Cookout
In August 2019, over 120 law enforcement officers from 30 law enforcement agencies in Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas executed a major operation, known as Operation Cookout, which resulted in 35 defendants being arrested for their respective roles in the conspiracy, along with the seizure of 24 firearms, 30 kilograms of fentanyl, 30 kilograms of heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine, and over $700,000 in cash.
To date, 45 total defendants have been charged in Operation Cookout. All 45 defendants have admitted their criminal conduct and pleaded guilty. Thus far, 41 defendants have been sentenced, with the majority being sentenced to prisons terms ranging from two to ten years, and five defendants sentenced between 15 to 25 years in prison.
These prosecutions are part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force’s (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Washington Division; Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington D.C.; Darrell J. Waldon, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Washington, D.C. Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); Colonel Gary T. Settle, Superintendent of Virginia State Police; Steve R. Drew, Chief of Newport News Police; Mark Talbot, Chief of Hampton Police; Col. K.L. Wright, Chief of Chesapeake Police; and Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton A. Bell, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge David J. Novak.
The following law enforcement agencies provided significant assistance during the investigation and arrest operation: U.S. Marshals Service, Newport News Sheriff’s Office, Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office, York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Amarillo Police, and Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office. Approximately 30 law enforcement agencies assisted in the arrest operation in Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas.