FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2011
Fayetteville, Arkansas - Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas announced today that the leaders of a drug trafficking organization in Northwest Arkansas have been sentenced for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and related charges. Honorable Jimm Larry Hendren, Chief United States District Judge, imposed the sentences in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Juan Sanchez-Sanchez, age 53, of Mexico and residing in Fayetteville and Amado Correa-Santos, age 35, of Mexico and residing in Fayetteville were each sentenced to 240 months imprisonment. Sanchez-Sanchez and Correa-Santos were each also ordered to pay a fine in the amount of $25,000. Marco Antonio Aguirre-Jeronimo, age 25, of Springdale was sentenced to 168 months imprisonment. Artemio Rodriguez-Contreras, age 28, of Mexico and residing in Bentonville was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment. Hugo Yanez-Martinez, age 26, of Mexico and residing in Springdale was sentenced to 37 months imprisonment.
“The activities of this drug trafficking organization caused great damage to our community” said Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. “Thanks to the dedication and hard work of several state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies, the leaders of this organization have been brought to justice. We will remain focused on prosecuting those that traffic in drugs in Northwest Arkansas and throughout the Western District.”
This case was brought as a part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Operation entitled “Cold Turkey,” investigating importers and multi-level distributors of methamphetamine. To date, 20 people have been sentenced in federal court as a part of this operation. Investigation of this OCDETF case is being conducted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations Division, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Fayetteville Police Department, the Springdale Police Department, the Rogers Police Department, the Bentonville Police Department, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Clay Fowlkes and Dustin Roberts prosecuted the case for the United States.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge William J. Bryant of the Drug Enforcement Administration stated “this investigation was a team effort by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies involved in this OCDETF investigation. The results of this investigation led to the disruption of a major drug trafficking organization involved in the distribution of methamphetamine, which is the major drug threat for Arkansas.”
“HSI is uniquely positioned to leverage its expertise in both drug smuggling investigations and immigration enforcement in order to disrupt and dismantle these types of criminal organizations,” said Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of the ICE HSI office in New Orleans. “This investigation provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities while partnering with other law enforcement agencies under the OCDETF umbrella. This operation is noteworthy--not only for the significance of the violators apprehended, but also for the level of collaboration that led to its successful outcome.” Parmer oversees a five-state area which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.
The convictions are the result of a long-term investigation being conducted by agents from Immigration Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations division (ICE HSI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) into drug trafficking and immigration violations in Northwest Arkansas. During the investigation, law enforcement officials received information and evidence from multiple sources that Juan Sanchez-Sanchez and Amado Correa-Santos were the leaders in Arkansas of a large-scale drug trafficking organization. Law enforcement learned during the course of the investigation that the group was involved in distributing methamphetamine in Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, North Carolina, California, and Arkansas. During the course of the investigation, agents received information that the organization was sending a large shipment of high-quality methamphetamine from Iowa to Arkansas, to be distributed in the Springdale area. On March 13, 2010, officers from the Missouri Highway Patrol stopped a vehicle driven by a co-conspirator from Iowa named Maria Christina Vital. Vital was driving a van southbound on Interstate 29. During a subsequent search of the van, the officers located five (5) pounds of methamphetamine. The evidence was later submitted to the DEA crime lab, which determined the substance to be 2.24 kilograms of a mixture of a substance that was 99% pure methamphetamine. ICE HSI and the DEA continued to work on the investigation and eventually identified Juan Sanchez-Sanchez and Amado Correa-Santos as two people who were responsible for receiving large amounts of methamphetamine from the drug trafficking organization and distributing the drugs in the Springdale area. In addition, agents were also able to identify Marco Antonio Aguirre-Jeronimo, Artemio Rodriguez-Contreras, and Hugo Yanez-Martinez as individuals who were also involved in the distribution of methamphetamine for the organization.
On January 13, 2011, a Federal Grand Jury returned an indictment charging these five individuals with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Northwest Arkansas and elsewhere. On April 12 and 13, 2011, each of the co-defendants entered a guilty plea either to the indictment or to a criminal information filed against them which also charged them with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Honorable Jimm Larry Hendren, Chief United States District Judge, imposed the sentences in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, Arkansas on August 4 and August 5, 2011.
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