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News Release
September 2, 2005

Investigation Leads to Seizure of 297 Pounds of Cocaine
Major Cocaine Distribution Organization Dismantled

On Friday, September 2, 2005, John Emerson, Assistant Special Agent In Charge of the State of North Carolina for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), along with W. Fletcher Clay, Colonel of the State Highway Patrol, Steven W. Chalmers, Chief of the Durham Police Department and Lindy Pendergrass, Sheriff of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced the arrest of ten defendants and the seizure of approximately 297 pounds of cocaine, $78,000.00 in U.S. currency, one tractor/car-carrier, nine vehicles and seven firearms, including 2 assault rifles, one shotgun and ammunition.

photo - seized items

On August 31, 2005, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol conducted a vehicle stop of a Freightliner tractor hauling a car-carrier containing six vehicles in Western North Carolina. A search of the vehicles on the car-carrier led to the seizure of approximately 286 pounds of cocaine and the arrest of the driver, Ricardo Cecena-Valdedivar. The State Highway Patrol contacted the Asheville Office of DEA and a joint investigation of this seizure was initiated. The investigation led to the arrest of two defendants in Orange County, North Carolina, identified as Francisco Hernandez-Mendez and Jose Luis Ochoa-Figueroa. Additionally, based on information developed in the investigation a search warrant was executed at 7819 Fayetteville Road, Durham, NC. As a result of the search, agents and officers seized an additional 11 pounds of cocaine, $78,000.00 in U.S. currency and seven firearms, including two assault rifles and arrested seven defendants. All ten defendants are being charged with violations of the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act.

Donny Hansen, Resident Agent in Charge of the DEA Raleigh Resident Office, stated that this investigation was made possible due to the outstanding police work by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. The final results demonstrate what can be accomplished with the cooperative spirit exhibited by law enforcement agencies in North Carolina.

Agents and officers from the following agencies participated in this investigation: The DEA Raleigh Resident Office Task Force (DEA, the Durham Police Department, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the Raleigh Police Department, the Rocky Mount Police Department, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and the Wilson Police Department); the Greensboro DEA Task Force (Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, High Point Police Department, Mebane Police Department, Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, Greensboro Police Department) the Charlotte DEA Office, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (Asheville).

The following individuals were arrested in this investigation:

Ramiro Esquivel Rojas DOB: 05-30-1952 Citizen of Mexico

Ricardo Alonso Cencena-Valdevivar DOB: 01-31-1958 Resident of California

Francisco Manuel Hernandez-Mendez DOB: 01-29-1960 Resident of California

Jose Luis Ochoa-Figueroa DOB: 06-03-1958 Resident of California

Zeferino Sanchez Ambriz DOB: 03-05-1970 Citizen of Mexico

Jose Luis Rangel Torrez DOB: 02-13-1966 Citizen of Mexico

Isidoro Garcia Sanchez DOB: 05-15-1974 Citizen of Mexico

Atanacio Mesa Mesa DOB: 05-02-1967 Citizen of Mexico

Jacinto Lopez Barrera DOB: 09-11-1981 Citizen of Mexico

Celestino Ambriz Torres DOB: 10-14-1963 Citizen of Mexico

The public is cautioned that an indictment or arrest is the formal method of issuing charges and does not in and of itself create an inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until such time, if ever, as the government establishes his or her guilt by competent evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Any questions can be directed to AFD DEA PIO Ruth Porter-Whipple at 404-893-7128.


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