FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2010
Contact: Chuvalo J. Truesdell
"Operation Shooting Star" Results in Three Dozen Prison Sentences
Ledgers of Drug Co-Conspirators Showed $190 Million in Drug Proceeds in Only 10 Months
JAN 15 --ATLANTA, GA - After convicting four defendants during two separate trials and accepting guilty pleas from 36 other defendants, United States District Judge Charles A. Pannell has imposed sentence on all but one defendant in the two-year prosecution resulting from the David G. Wilhelm OCDETF Strike Force’s investigation named “Operation Shooting Star.” The latest sentence, handed down today, was a 300-month federal prison sentence for JULIO CESAR AVALOS-CERPAS, 35, from Mexico, for his role as a leader of a distribution “cell.” The sentences that Judge Pannell imposed on the other defendants ranged from 16 months to life in prison. There is no parole in the federal system.
Acting United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates stated, “These forty convictions show the results that are achieved when federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies work together to stem the flow of poison into this country and to stop the cross-border flow of cash to violent, greed-driven cartel members in Mexico.”
According to Acting United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court related that between November 2006 and December 2007, members of a large, sophisticated cocaine trafficking organization linked to Mexican drug cartels used the metro Atlanta area as the transshipment point for more than 7,000 kilograms of cocaine.
Seized ledgers showed that during this period, organization members collected at least $193,129,208 in drug proceeds in the Atlanta area, transported those funds through the Southeastern United States, and smuggled them across the United States/Mexico border to pay cartel leaders in charge of operations. During the course of the investigation, agents intercepted telephone calls over approximately 53 telephones; searched at least 30 locations; and seized more than $10 million in cash, 383 kilograms of cocaine, and 30 firearms, including assault rifles, shotguns, and handguns with 30-round magazines.
Judge Pannell imposed the following sentences today and over the past 11 months:
DEFENDANT AGE PRISON TERM SUPERVISED RELEASE
Manuel Magana-Sagrero 37 Life 10 years
Jose Magana-Zavala 34 384 months 10 years
Angel Haro-Perez 29 324 months 5 years
Kevin Jimenez-Castillo 35 324 months 5 years
DEFENDANT AGE PRISON TERM SUPERVISED RELEASE
Joaquin Suarez-Flores 30 304 months 5 years
Julio Cesar Avalos Cerpas 34 300 months 5 years
Julian Ortuna-Herrera 26 292 months 5 years
Jose Macias-Martinez 49 292 months 5 years
Jose Tapia-Corneso 41 288 months 5 years
Hector Vargas-Madrigal 47 262 months 10 years
J. Jesus Torres-Ochoa 39 262 months 10 years
Jose Mendoza-Solorzano 23 235 months 5 years
Jose Jesus Espinoza Faria 25 248 months 5 years
Leopoldo Castanda-Herrera 42 248 months 5 years
Arturo Torres-Zaragoza 25 248 months 5 years
Francisco Vega-Santana 38 235 months 5 years
Salvador Gonzalez-Flores 22 216 months 5 years
Damian Lopez-Gonzalez 24 211 months 5 years
Mario Alberto Guerrero-Martinez 35 195 months 5 years
Marco Antonio Rodriguez-Magana 36 188 months 5 years
Aurelio Chavez Maldonado 25 188 months 5 years
Eneyda Romero-Molina 40 181 months 5 year
Jose Luis Benitez-Tornes 30 168 months 5 years
Ramiro Ochoa Penaloza 39 168 months 5 years
Alejandro Gutierrez-Beiza 30 151 months 5 years
Antero Pineda-Camacho 51 151 months 5 years
Jesus Garcia-Corona 27 149 months 5 years
Raul Amado Luna-Mejia 23 144 months 5 years
Alfonso Rodriguez Franco 49 144 months 5 years
Martin Magana-Bernal 37 121 months 5 years
Roberto Espinoza-Cerda 29 120 months 5 years
Nahu Barajas-Duarte 29 97 months 5 years
Juan Aguiar-Martinez 33 97 months 5 years
Felipe Santana 30 63 months 2 years
Victor Gonzalez-Flores 20 60 months 3 years
Fausto Villa-Mojica 51 48 months 1 year
Carlos Alberto Gutierrez 22 46 months 3 years
Abraham Mayor 27 27 months 3 years
Lorenzo Pineda-Ibarra 38 16 months 3 years
Defendants JUAN ANTONIO RAMOS-SANCHEZ, JORGE LUIS CORDERO-PENA, JOSE EMMANUEL GUADARRAMA, OPHELIA PINEDA, AND FNU LNU, a/k/a “LICENCIADO,” remain fugitives.
The agents who investigated this case are assigned to the David G. Wilhelm OCDETF Strike Force and are employed by the following law enforcement agencies: the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Marshals Service, the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the DeKalb County Police Department, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. Significant assistance in this case was provided by the Georgia State Patrol.
Assistant United States Attorneys Elizabeth M. Hathaway and Jenny Turner prosecuted the case.
Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge 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.