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Drug Trafficking Organization Leader Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison

12 pounds of methamphetamine and 60 firearms

AUG 14 (PHOENIX) – On August 12, 2013, Artemio Pena-Torrecillas, 26, of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton to 40 years in prison. Pena-Torrecillas was found guilty by a federal jury on May 30, 2013, of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and two counts of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.   

“Drugs and violence go hand in hand. This deadly combination must be met with combined law enforcement expertise at the local, state, county and federal levels,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman. “DEA is committed to keeping violent drug traffickers off the streets and putting them where they belong—behind bars.”

U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo stated, “Through the efforts of a long-term investigation by federal and local law enforcement, a leader and other members of a drug trafficking organization have been removed from our community.  Our neighborhoods are safer as a result of the removal of these drug dealers who possessed firearms to further their illegal enterprise.”

Between January 2011 and April 2011, Pena-Torrecillas, along with Cruz Ortega-Ruano, led a Phoenix-based drug trafficking organization (DTO) responsible for the distribution of pound-quantities of exceptionally pure methamphetamine as well as the collection of narcotics proceeds.  Law enforcement used sophisticated investigative techniques to dismantle the DTO resulting in a five-defendant indictment against members of the DTO.  Pena-Torrecillas was responsible for obtaining pounds of methamphetamine from a source of supply, hiring drug couriers to drive vehicles equipped with sophisticated hidden compartments to transport the drugs, and distributing the drugs to customers. Other co-defendants including Gerardo Diarte-Lara, Francisco Torrecillas-Torres, and Juan Martin Tapia-Bernal assisted the DTO by acting as stash house operators and couriers.  Through the investigation into this DTO, law enforcement seized approximately 12 pounds of methamphetamine, over $200,000 in narcotics proceeds, 60 firearms including assault rifles and handguns, high capacity firearm magazines, ammunition, and vehicles from the DTO at three separate stash houses operated by the organization. 

In addition to Pena-Torrecillas, four co-defendants entered guilty pleas and were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Martone: 

  1. Cruz Ortega-Ruano, 32, of Mexico, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was responsible for coordinating the delivery of narcotics and collection of narcotics proceeds for the DTO.
  2. Gerardo Diarte-Lara, 28, of Mexico, was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison.  He served as a trusted narcotics and narcotics proceeds courier for the organization. 
  3. Francisco Torrecillas-Torres, 39, of Mexico, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role as a narcotics courier. 
  4. Juan Martin Tapia-Bernal, 46, of Mexico, was sentenced to 23 years in prison.  He was a stash house operator and courier for the DTO. 

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Mesa Police Department, Tempe Police Department, Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, and Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. The prosecution was handled by Jonell L. Lucca and John Z. Boyle, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.


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