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Rio Rico Man Sentenced to 120 Months in Prison for Trafficking More Than Three Tons of Marijuana

TUCSON, AZ. - Elias Guerrero-Esquer, 44, of Rio Rico, Ariz., was sentenced on July 21, 2011, to 120 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Frank R. Zapata. Guerrero-Esquer had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana and admitted to intending to distribute a total of 3,242 kilograms of marijuana.

A co-conspirator, Venancio Casarez-Sanchez, was found guilty by a federal jury on January 7, 2011, of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. He was also sentenced to 120 months in federal prison by Judge Zapata. A third co-conspirator, Manuel Edgardo Cortez, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Four other charged members of the conspiracy are fugitives.

The defendants named above were part of a conspiracy responsible for importing and transporting marijuana into and throughout the United States via semi tractor trailer trucks. Once the marijuana was smuggled into the United States in commercial trucks, it was delivered to various produce warehouses in Nogales, Ariz., and loaded into different tractor-trailers that were licensed to travel within the United States.

Prosecution in this case resulted from three marijuana seizures in 2007 and 2008 totaling 3,242 kilograms of marijuana. On April 28, 2008, law enforcement agents observed a tractor trailer suspected of being loaded with marijuana leave from a produce warehouse in Nogales, Ariz., and travel to a warehouse in Tucson, Ariz. In Tucson, the conspirators offloaded the marijuana from the tractor trailer and stored it in the warehouse. A search of the warehouse resulted in 1,313 kilograms of marijuana being seized. At the scene a .40 caliber handgun and a police scanner were found in a pickup truck in which four of the conspirators were passengers.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety conducted the investigation in this case. The prosecution was handled by James T. Lacey, Michelle Spaven and Joseph W. Hanley, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Tucson.


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