Six Members of Mexican Drug Trafficking Group in Federal
Custody in Charlotte
Thousands of Pounds of Marijuana and Several Hundred Thousand Dollars Seized at Time of Arrests
JUN 23 -- CHARLOTTE, NC - Members of an alleged drug trafficking group who were arrested on a federal criminal complaint last week, came before a federal magistrate judge in Charlotte this morning for detention hearings. Four (all of whom are illegal aliens) were ordered this morning to be held in custody pre-trial. According to official court documents, five individuals were arrested in Charlotte on Tuesday, June 16, 2009, and two individuals were arrested at the scene of a traffic stop in Winnsboro, South Carolina, all as a result of an ongoing investigation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement administration (DEA). Today’s announcement is made by Edward R. Ryan, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, and Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the DEA Atlanta Field Division (AFD).
Each member of the alleged drug conspiracy group is currently charged in a federal criminal complaint with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana. According to the complaint affidavit, a copy of which is provided, DEA agents began an investigation into marijuana and cocaine trafficking by members of a Mexican drug trafficking organization in January 2008. On June 16, 2009, during the course of the investigation, DEA agents established surveillance of a warehouse complex located at 330 E. Hebron Street in Charlotte. Subsequent surveillance and investigation led to the seizures of 1,620 pounds of marijuana from Unit F of this warehouse complex, 326 pounds of marijuana from a vehicle which was stopped in South Carolina, and 2,071 pounds of marijuana from a house with a Charlotte address. Also seized from the house was several hundred thousand dollars in U.S. currency, consisting of several stacks of bundled bills. Under the current charge, each defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment.
According to SAC Benson of the DEA AFD, “Mexican drug trafficking organizations dominate the trafficking of marijuana as well as cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, throughout the United States, and facilitate the flow of drug proceeds back into Mexico. North Carolina is not exempt from these drug trafficking organizations and, in fact, is becoming a staging area for large shipments of all drugs and a collection point for currency. The DEA will continue to aggressively investigate these organizations and work closely with our federal, state, and local counterparts to insure maximum impact of our enforcement efforts.”
The investigation was led by DEA, with substantial assistance from members of its federal drug task force–the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the Hickory, NC Police Department, the Monroe, NC Police Department, and the Union County, NC Sheriff’s Office.
The case will be handled for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelli H. Ferry of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.
Under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a defendant arrested on a federal criminal complaint is entitled to a probable cause hearing within ten days of his/her arrest, unless indicted, or unless a criminal bill of information against the defendant is filed in U.S. District Court before the passage of ten days.
Defendants are entitled to a presumption of innocence under the law, and the government has the burden of proving every element of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
A list of the defendants appears below, along with their individual status. An eighth defendant named in the federal criminal complaint remains a fugitive.
US v. Luis Alberto Zapata-Hernandez, et al
LUIS ALBERTO ZAPATA-HERNANDEZ
SERGIO ANTONIO LERMA-GUITERREZ
OSWALDO ANDRES FIGUEROA-MARTINEZ
KERRI LEE DABBS
DEA AFD SAC Rodney G. Benson 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.