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Madera and Merced County Men Sentenced for Methamphetamine Trafficking Offenses

JAN 06 (FRESNO, Calif.) — Rafael Velasco, 36, of Madera, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill to 14 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Jay Fitzpatrick and United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

Velasco was the last of seven defendants charged in related cases. The other defendants sentenced are:

  • Gonzalo Esquivel, aka “Gunner,” 34, of Los Banos, sentenced to 15 years and five months in prison on November 4, 2013;
  • Efren Steve Jiminez, aka “Grande,” 33, of Los Banos, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on November 4, 2013;
  • Kenneth Hernandez, aka “Kenny,” 30, of Dos Palos, was sentenced to 12 years and four months in prison on December 2, 2013;
  • Gustavo Moreno, aka “Gus Gus,” 33, of Madera, was sentenced to 12 years and four months in prison on September 23, 2013;
  • David Torres, 33, of Madera, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on September 23, 2013; and
  • Juan Herrera, aka “Joker,” of Madera, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on November 1, 2013.

According to court documents, the defendants were members or associates of the Norteño criminal street gang, which is under the control of the Nuestra Familia prison gang (NF). The NF utilizes the Norteños to engage in narcotics sales.

“The collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in this case was outstanding,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Together, we have removed seven dangerous criminals from our neighborhoods for many years to come. The sentencing of Rafael Velasco concludes this case, but our collective efforts to root out and prosecute violent gang members who traffic in narcotics in the Central Valley continue to be vigorous.”

According to court documents, Velasco provided Juan Herrera with 1/8 of an ounce of methamphetamine to be included in a “package” to be delivered to individuals incarcerated at the Madera County Jail. On June 7, 2011, Velasco carried a Glock 9 mm Model 19 pistol in a lunch bag that also contained approximately one ounce of methamphetamine to his car. He was arrested within minutes of doing so, and the gun and methamphetamine was seized by law enforcement agents.

This case was the product of an investigation by the California Department of Justice Bureau of Investigation in coordination with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Madera Narcotic Enforcement Team, the Merced Multi-Agency Narcotic Task Force, the Merced Multi-Agency Gang Task Force, the Los Banos Police Department, the Merced Police Department, the Madera Police Department, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, and the Livingston Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly A. Sanchez prosecuted the case.

These cases were brought as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative that brings together federal, state and local law enforcement to combat gun and gang crime. At the core of PSN is increased federal prosecution to incapacitate chronic violent offenders as well as to communicate a credible deterrent threat to potential gun offenders.

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