Tulare Drug Traffickers Receive Hefty Prison Sentences
AUG 24 -- FRESNO, Calif. — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and DEA Special Agent-in-Charge, San Francisco Field Division, Anthony D. Williams announced today that Senior U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger sentenced Eustorgio Flores, 50, of Tulare, to 27 years in prison, following a jury verdict last April finding Flores guilty of conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine, attempted distribution of methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine near an elementary school, and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. In addition, Pioquinto Larios Santacruz, aka Noe Rios, 51, of Tulare, was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in prison for conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine, distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine, and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine. According to Judge Wanger, there was “overwhelming evidence” that Flores was the leader of a “wide-ranging” long-term drug conspiracy.
According to the evidence introduced at trial, the drug trafficking conspiracy was headed by Flores and involved the shipment of large quantities of high-purity crystal methamphetamine and cocaine by commercial airlines for distribution on the Hawaiian island of Maui. More than six pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 18 pounds of cocaine, and $114,000 in cash were seized in Maui in January 2007, representing the largest drug seizure in Maui County (the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai) history. The drugs seized in Hawaii were worth $1.3 million and were supplied by Flores and Santacruz.
Additional evidence introduced at trial established that before the Maui seizure, Flores and Santacruz supplied large quantities of crystal methamphetamine and cocaine to their Hawaiian connection. In September 2006, Santacruz, acting on his own, arranged for the delivery of five pounds of crystal methamphetamine and five kilograms of cocaine to the Hawaiian connection. In addition, in July 2007, Flores negotiated for the delivery of one pound of crystal methamphetamine to a DEA undercover agent but called off the deal when the undercover agent would not change the location for the transaction. The evidence also showed that in January 2008, Flores sold crystal methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of Lincoln Elementary School in Tulare while it was in session. Wiretap evidence introduced at trial showed that Flores typically sold five kilograms of cocaine and five pounds of crystal methamphetamine to his Hawaiian connection. These dealings culminated in a five-pound crystal methamphetamine deal in Farmersville.
After serving their prison terms, Flores will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for six years and Santacruz will be under supervised release for three years.
Earlier this month, Rodolfo F. Suarez Jr. 26, of Visalia, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, for his participation in the Farmersville drug transaction.
Five additional defendants entered guilty pleas before trial:
Flores’s wife, Hortencia Flores, 46, of Tulare, has been sentenced to four years in prison for using a telephone to facilitate felony drug trafficking crimes.
Abel Remigio-Onofre, 50, of Visalia, has been sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison for attempting to distribute crystal methamphetamine.
Remigo-Onofre’s wife, Sylvia Lopez, 37, has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison for concealing a felony.
Leobardo Gonzalez-Gonzalez, aka Leopoldo Correa Orozco, 35, of Farmersville, was sentenced in January 2009, to four years in prison for using a telephone to facilitate a felony drug transaction.
Reyes Chaparro-Flores, 51, of Farmersville, is scheduled for sentencing on August 30, 2010, for conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
This case is a product of an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) effort, an interagency program that investigates and prosecutes the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the U.S. by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. OCDETF task force members in this case include the Fresno Resident Office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the ICE Homeland Security Investigations, the DEA Maui Post of Duty and the Maui and Tulare Police Departments. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Deanna L. Martinez are prosecuting the case.
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