Federal Prison Sentence Handed Down To El Paso Drug Smugglers
MAY 24 -- United States Attorney John E. Murphy, Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration–El Paso Division and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge William “Bill” Cotter announced that 38-year-old Rodrigo Rodney Eckenroth, 41-year-old Jeorge Rivera and 44-year-old Luis Rivera were sentenced to 290 months, 87 months and 87 months in federal prison, respectively, for their roles in a large-scale marijuana smuggling organization.
In addition, United States District Judge Frank Montalvo fined Eckenroth $100,000; the Riveras, $25,000 each. Judge Montalvo also ordered that Eckenroth pay more than $208,000 restitution, for back taxes, to the Internal Revenue Service and forfeit approximately $1.7 million in criminally derived proceeds; the Riveras, forfeit more than $200,000 cash and several vehicles.
In May 2009, federal agents arrested Eckenroth, the Riveras and five other individuals charged by indictment with conspiring to smuggle into the U.S. and distribute more than 25,000 pounds of marijuana between 2006 and 2008.
“The successful prosecution of members of this drug trafficking organization should put on notice those who engage in this type of illegal activity,” said Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration-El Paso Field Division.
“IRS-CI will continue it’s diligence in identifying and seeking the forfeiture of criminally derived proceeds,” stated IRS-CI Acting Special Agent in Charge William “Bill” Cotter.
On December 29, 2009, Eckenroth pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering, tax evasion and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. On January 29, 2010, Jeorge Rivera pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and Luis Rivera pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. In February, co-defendants Josefina Ornelas-Murguia and Joel Osvaldo Ramirez-Nunez were sentenced to 46 and 70 months in federal prison, respectively, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Co-defendants Mario Alberto Munoz, Jr. and Liliana Ornelas-Rodriguez were previously sentenced to five years probation and time served, respectively, after pleading guilty to distributing marijuana. Charges against co-defendant Uriel Herrera-Gallegos were subsequently dismissed in lieu of charges brought forth by the State of Texas.