Judge Sentences Minneapolis Heroin Ringleader, 3 Others
JAN 23 -- (Minneapolis) Four defendants connected to a Minneapolis drug trafficking organization were sentenced yesterday in federal court. On January 22, 2009, United States District Chief Judge Michael Davis sentenced three men on one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine. Christian Hernandez-Seldana, 33, Fridley, was sentenced to 360 months in prison and five years supervised release; Eddy Medina-Garza, 23, Brooklyn Park, was sentenced to 14 months in prison and five years supervised release; and Feliz Murguia-Garcia, 36, Brooklyn Park, was sentenced to 36 months in prison and five years supervised release. The fourth defendant, Phat Minh Nguyen, 35, St. Paul, was sentenced to 36 months in prison and one year supervised release on one count of using a communication facility in causing and facilitating the commission of felony controlled substance violations. All five defendants were initially indicted on January 8, 2008.
The court found Hernandez-Seldana to be the ringleader of the organization, which had distributed over 30 kilograms of heroin in the Minneapolis area. Chief Judge Davis compared the organization’s business model to that of a pizza delivery service and said the efficiency with which the organization distributed poison into the community was “staggering.” According to their respective plea agreements, between May 1, 2007, and Dec. 20, 2007, the defendants conspired to distribute controlled substances, including heroin and cocaine.
The joint law enforcement investigation revealed that the defendants were part of a drug-trafficking organization responsible for distributing heroin and cocaine throughout Minneapolis. Heroin is a highly addictive and dangerous opiate manufactured from morphine, which is extracted from poppy plants. Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain.
“The sentencing of these defendants puts their illegal enterprise out of business and keeps dangerous drugs out of the community.” stated Gary G. Olenkiewicz, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Chicago Field Division which covers the state of Minnesota. Investigators learned that customers would telephone in orders to Hernandez-Seldana and arrange a meeting to purchase the drugs. Hernandez-Seldana would generally give the customer a time and place to meet in south Minneapolis. Cuevas-Martinez, Medina-Garza and Murguia-Garcia were “runners” for the organization, who would deliver the drugs to customers. Nguyen was a frequent customer who obtained heroin from the organization for others and attempted to warn the group of police surveillance. On July 16, 2007, the Minneapolis Police Department’s Narcotics Unit executed a search warrant at a Richfield residence and seized several ounces of heroin, $40,000 in cash and more than 1 ounce of cocaine. During the search, officers observed Hernandez-Seldana and another man driving by, watching the residence.
On several dates between Oct. 26, 2007 and Dec. 17, 2007, law enforcement arranged undercover buys of heroin and cocaine from the organization. The heroin amounts ranged from 1.2 grams to 6.5 grams, and the cocaine amounts ranged from 1 gram to 1.6 grams. According to court documents, the drugs were sold at various times by Hernandez-Seldana, Cuevas-Martinez, Medina-Garza and Murguia-Garcia.
A search warrant executed on December 20, 2007 at Hernandez-Seldana’s Fridley residence recovered approximately 400 grams of heroin, 81 grams of cocaine and cash. A fifth defendant, Ramiro Cuevas-Martinez, 36, Brooklyn Park, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy on Aug. 5, 2008. Judge Davis will sentence Cuevas-Martinez at a future date.
This case was the result of a joint investigation by the DEA, the Minneapolis Police Department and the Northwest Metro Drug Task Force and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven L. Schleicher.