News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2010
Contact: Chuvalo J. Truesdell
PIO/AFD
Number: 404-893-7124

Eleventh Man Sentenced to Federal Imprisonment for Marijuana Trafficking Conspiracy Which Ended in Charlotte

JAN 12 -- CHARLOTTE, NC - The last defendant in a large-scale conspiracy to traffic a total of more than four tons of marijuana since 2000 was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Charlotte. Sharu Bey, 41, of Lincolnton, NC, was sentenced today in Charlotte to 27 years of federal imprisonment. During the course of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation, code-named “Operation Weed Wacker,” which began in 2007, law enforcement also seized for forfeiture more than $1,300,000 in drug proceeds, and several firearms and vehicles. The conspiracy ended on March 22, 2007, when law enforcement officials seized more than one ton of marijuana delivered by an informant to a Charlotte warehouse. The prosecution ultimately included two federal indictments.

Today’s announcement is made by Edward R. Ryan, United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, and Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of DEA, Atlanta Field Division.

The first indictment included eight defendants, three of whom were tried and found guilty by a federal jury in March 2008. The remaining defendants entered pleas of guilty.

• Sharu BEY, also known as “Jeffrey Lewis,” 41, of Lincolnton, North Carolina, was found guilty at trial and received a sentence today of 324 months for his role over several years in the marijuana trafficking conspiracy and for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.

• Ruben Ortiz BARRAZA, also known as “Ruben Barraza-Ortiz,” 36, of Pharr, Texas, and Ruben Noyola GARCIA, 34, of San Juan, Texas, were also found guilty at trial for the marijuana trafficking conspiracy related to the ton of marijuana delivered to Charlotte in March 2007, and were sentenced for that conduct, as well as for similar loads of marijuana delivered to Durham, NC, and Indianapolis, Indiana, in the first half of 2007. Barraza was sentenced to over 24 years imprisonment, and Garcia received over 23 years.

• Patrick SCHWENKE, 56, of Fort Mill, SC, pleaded guilty to the marijuana trafficking conspiracy and to possessing a firearm during and in relation to the drug trafficking offense. Schwenke received a sentence of six years.

• Juan Carlos SANCHEZ-SOLORZANO, 39, of Mexico, Roberto Carlos ALBAARELLANO, 31, of Mexico, Juan C. GARZA, 32, of Alamo, Texas, and Ulises PARTIDOSOTO, 26, of Mexico, pleaded guilty to the marijuana trafficking conspiracy. Sanchez- Solorzano received a sentence of nearly three years, Alba-Arellano received a sentence of nearly four years, Garza received over six years, and Partido-Soto received over four years imprisonment.

One defendant charged in the indictment, Edgar Ortiz BARRAZA, is still a fugitive from justice.

The second indictment charged three additional defendants associated with the marijuana conspiracy. After law enforcement discovered cryptic ledgers in the warehouse from the March 2007 marijuana delivery, three historical customers from Charlotte were identified. Valon VAILES, 43, of Charlotte, was found guilty at trial by a federal jury on December 4, 2007, for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than a ton of marijuana from 2003 to 2007. Vailes received over 20 years imprisonment. Harry BURDEN, 50, and James JONES, 40, both also from Charlotte, pleaded guilty to the marijuana trafficking conspiracy, and received more than five years and more than six years imprisonment, respectively.

According to information introduced at trial the drug distribution conspirators sometimes had marijuana brought into the Charlotte area by commercial overnight delivery services. At other times the drugs would be hauled in by motor vehicles and, in the case of the last delivery in March 2007, by tractor trailer.

The investigation, which Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Kris Patina spearheaded, included the DEA Charlotte District Office, the DEA McAllen Texas District Office, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, and the Mississippi Highway Patrol. The prosecution was handled for the government by Assistant United States Attorney Steven R. Kaufman.

SAC Benson of 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.

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