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Drug Trafficking Organization Leader Sentenced to Twenty Years

PHOENIX, AZ. – Arnoldo Zazueta-Miranda, 36, of Mexico, was sentenced last week by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Martone to 20 years in federal prison. A federal jury convicted Zazueta-Miranda of several charges including, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Crack Cocaine, and Heroin; Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances; Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering; Possession of Controlled Substances; and Possession of a Firearm in the Commission of a Drug Offense, following a two-week trial in December 2010. Mario Benitez, 32, of Phoenix, was also convicted at trial of Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine and Crack Cocaine, among other drug-related charges. Judge Martone sentenced Benitez to 12 years in prison.

Between January and December 2009, the Zazueta-Miranda Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) distributed cocaine, methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and heroin to customers in the Phoenix area for distribution to other parts of the United States. Law enforcement used sophisticated investigative techniques to dismantle the Zazueta-Miranda DTO resulting in an eight-defendant indictment against members of the Zazueta-Miranda DTO.

Zazueta-Miranda was the leader of the DTO responsible for arranging for the importation of illegal drugs for sale to local wholesale, large-quantity customers while also coordinating the return of narcotics proceeds to Mexico. Two weapons, along with ammunition, drug ledgers, drug paraphernalia, U.S. currency, and large quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin were found in one of the DTO’s stash houses in the area of 112 th and Campbell Avenues in Phoenix at the time of the arrests. Benitez was employed by his sister/co-defendant Marcela Benitez-Salcido as a stash house operator at her stash house in the area of 107 th Avenue and Indian School Road in Phoenix. Benitez conducted counter-surveillance and assisted customers with their cocaine purchases by testing the cocaine and then repackaging the cocaine for transport to other destinations such as Miami, Florida.

In addition to Zazueta-Miranda and Benitez, four co-defendants entered guilty pleas, and two co-defendants remain fugitives:

  • Marcela Benitez-Salcido, 38, of Phoenix, sentenced to 14 years in prison. She ran her own DTO selling cocaine to customers.
  • Jose Roberto Simental-Moreno, 25, of Mexico, sentenced to 12 years in prison. He served as Zazueta-Miranda’s right-hand man.
  • Rolina Lynn Jaramillo, 45, of Phoenix, sentenced to almost six years in prison for her role as a money courier.
  • Barrington Bowford, 39, of Jamaica, sentenced to almost six years in prison. He was a customer of the drug trafficking organization.
  • Misael Beltran-Cital and Saul Frias-Lares, both of Mexico, remain as fugitives.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Mesa Police Department, Phoenix Police Department, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Surprise Police Department, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The prosecution was handled by Jonell L. Lucca and Glenn B. McCormick, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.


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