News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2009
Contact: Chuvalo J. Truesdell
PIO/AFD
Number: 404-893-7124

Fourteen Sentenced in Columbia/Atlanta Drug Smuggling Case

APR 28 -- Columbia, South Carolina---- United States Attorney W. Walter Wilkins stated today that 14 defendants were sentenced in federal court over the past week for their roles in an interstate drug smuggling and money laundering enterprise. Juan Mendoza age 47, of Columbia, South Carolina, led the organization which supplied cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana to various Columbia-area drug dealers.   The organization used several residences to store and sell narcotics, and used vehicles with hidden compartments to transport drugs and money between Columbia and Atlanta. 

The following defendants were sentenced by United States District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie:

Juan MENDOZA , a/k/a Ruben, a/k/a Roberto Landin Uriosti, a/k/a Papa, of Columbia, South Crolina, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison;
Carlos VEGA , a/k/a Misa, of Columbia, South Carolina (MENDOZA’s son), was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison;
Argentina VEGA DIAZ , of Atlanta, Georgia, (MENDOZA’s wife) was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison;
Damasio ARREOLA , a/k/a Damaso, a/k/a Ramazon, of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison;
Terry WORKMAN , of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison;
Dawud KHALID , a/k/a D, of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison;
Veronica MARTINEZ , a/k/a Chapara, of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison;
Celestina BASAN , a/k/a Celi, a/k/a Maria Rios, of Gaston, South Carolina, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison;
Giovanni VIRUEL , of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison;
Gonzalez MARCH , of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison;
Darren BATES , of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to 117 months in federal prison;
Reggie VALENTINE , of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison;
Mayra SEPULVEDA , of  Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison; and
Elsa G. MONTECINOS , of Atlanta, Goergia,  was sentenced to 160 months in federal prison.

In addition to the prison sentences listed above, the defendants were ordered to forfeit $650,000.00 in cash, cars, firearms, and other assets used in the conspiracy or purchased with drug money.  Some of the defendants were in the United States illegally and will be deported following the service of their sentence.

The investigation was a joint effort of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Columbia Police Department, the Richland County Sheriff's Department, the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, assisted by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the Newberry County Sheriffs' Department, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), all working together on the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) with the United States Attorney's Office.

Assistant United States Attorneys James Leventis and Mark Moore of the Columbia office prosecuted the case.

Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge the DEA Atlanta Field Division, encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justhinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov. DEA.gov takes you directly to the Diversion Control and Prescription Drugs link.

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