FRESNO, CA — Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams and United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today that Eduardo Vargas-Cortes, 25, an undocumented alien from Mexico, pleaded guilty to possessing crystal methamphetamine with intent to distribute it.
According to the plea agreement, in July 2010, Vargas-Cortes was transporting three pounds of crystal methamphetamine intended for distribution when he was stopped for a traffic violation in Fresno County. The methamphetamine was hidden in a secret compartment in a 2008 Dodge Ram pickup truck that Vargas-Cortes was driving. The pickup was not registered to Vargas-Cortes, and it was seized.
Vargas-Cortes is scheduled to be sentenced on February 27, 2012 by United States District Judge Lawrence J. ONeill. He faces a sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine. 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.
This case is the product of an investigation, conducted under the umbrella of Operation Trident, by the DEA and Fresno County Sheriff’s Office. Operation Trident was a multi-agency marijuana enforcement effort in Madera, Fresno, and Tulare Counties in 2009 and 2010. Operation Trident resulted in the eradication of approximately 663,898 marijuana plants primarily from public lands in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and foothills in the Eastern District of California. This case brings the total number of federal convictions in connection with Operation Trident to 66. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.