Jury Convicts Three Valley Men of Drug Shipments to Hawaii
APR 23 -- FRESNO, Calif.—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and DEA Special Agent-in-Charge, San Francisco Field Division, Anthony D. Williams announced today that a federal jury in Fresno found Eustorgio Flores, 50, and Pioquinto Larios Santacruz, aka Noe Rios, 51, both of Tulare; and Rodolfo F. Suarez, Jr., 27, of Visalia, guilty of a drug conspiracy. Flores was also found guilty of distributing crystal methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of an elementary school, attempting to distribute one pound of crystal methamphetamine to a DEA undercover agent, and possessing with intent to distribute 4.5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine. Santacruz was also found guilty of distributing and possessing with intent to distribute crystal methamphetamine and cocaine to a Hawaiian drug dealer in September, 2006.
According to court documents, the investigation uncovered a drug trafficking conspiracy where the defendants, led by Flores, would send large quantities of high purity crystal methamphetamine and cocaine by commercial airlines for distribution in Maui. Over six pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 18 pounds of cocaine, and $114,000 in cash were seized in Maui, representing the largest drug seizure in Maui County (the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai) history.
Stated U.S. Attorney Wagner, “In Hawaii, crystal meth is the drug of choice and is more commonly abused than powdered methamphetamine. Unfortunately, the Central Valley has been the launching point for much of the Hawaiian Islands’ supply. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is determined to be a part of the effort to stem the flow of this dangerous and highly addictive drug to Hawaii.”
Suarez was remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service after the verdicts were pronounced. Flores and Santacruz have been in custody.
Five additional defendants entered guilty pleas before trial: Flores’s wife, Hortencia Flores, 46, of Tulare, was recently sentenced to four years in federal prison for using a telephone to facilitate felony drug trafficking crimes.
Reyes Chaparro-Flores, 51, of Farmersville, entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute crystal methamphetamine and is scheduled for sentencing on June 1, 2010.
Abel Remigio-Onofre, 50, of Visalia, entered a guilty plea to attempting to distribute crystal methamphetamine and is scheduled for sentencing May 3, 2010. His wife, Sylvia Lopez, 38, entered a guilty plea to concealing a felony and is scheduled for sentencing on May 17, 2010.
Leobardo Gonzalez-Gonzalez, aka Leopoldo Correa Orozco, 35 , of Farmersville, was the first to plead guilty in this case and was sentenced in January, 2009, to four years in prison for using a telephone to facilitate a felony drug transaction.
This case is a product of an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) effort. OCDETF is a focused interagency program investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Members of the OCDETF task force in this case included the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Immigration and Custom Enforcement, Maui Police Department, and Tulare Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Deanna L. Martinez are prosecuting the case.
Senior U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger set sentencing for Flores, Suarez, and Santacruz for July 12, 2010. They face a minimum of 20 years to a maximum of life imprisonment based on their prior felony drug convictions. Santacruz faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
# # # #