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OPERATION GREAT SCOTT UPDATE: 19 DEFENDANTS PLEAD GUILTY AS PART OF INVESTIGATION INTO DRUG TRAFFICKING IN WALDRON, MENA, AND FORT SMITH



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2013

 






Fort Smith, Arkansas - Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced today that 19 defendants pleaded guilty this week to drug trafficking and firearms offenses as part of Operation Great Scott, an investigation that targeted a drug trafficking organization centered in Waldron, Arkansas. The investigation resulted in the seizure of more than 11 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 70 pounds of marijuana, 28 firearms, two bullet-proof vests, and over $50,000.  Seventeen of the defendants were originally charged on August 22, 2012, in a 53-count indictment. 

United States Attorney Eldridge commented, “These convictions, taken together, represent another drug trafficking organization that is out of business.  For that reason, Operation Great Scott has made a difference in Waldron, Mena, Fort Smith, and surrounding areas.  We will continue to work together-as local, state, and federal law enforcement to do all we can to make our communities safe.”

According to information previously filed and discussed in court, the investigation included over forty controlled purchases of methamphetamine from members of the organization. In several cases, individuals under age 18 were used to distribute drugs. During the case, one of the members of the organization, Miguel Paramo, was placed under surveillance as he left Waldron and drove to Irving, Texas, to pick up a large amount of methamphetamine. After Paramo was stopped in Dallas due to his involvement in a minor motor vehicle accident, officers arrested him for misdemeanor offenses. A search of his truck revealed approximately four pounds of methamphetamine, which Paramo had intended to transport back to Waldron and distribute to other members of the organization. Also during the case, agents from the DEA and the Department of Homeland Security executed a search warrant of a “stash” house used by the organization and a residence owned by another member of the organization, Lee Roy Garcia. During these searches, agents recovered approximately six additional pounds of methamphetamine and 8 firearms.

Miguel Paramo, age 31 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty on Monday to possessing 200.4 grams of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. Paramo faces a maximum of life in prison and a fine of $10,000,000.

Christian Bonilla, age 30 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty on Monday to distributing 3.38 grams of methamphetamine. Bonilla faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000.

Amadeo Cardenas, age 34 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty on Monday to distributing 1.16 grams of methamphetamine. Cardenas faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.  

Juan Vasquez, age 33 of Heavener, Oklahoma, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Vasquez faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $2,000,000.

Armando Arce, age 57 of Mena Arkansas, pleaded guilty Monday to a one-count information for receiving and possessing a short barreled shotgun with an obliterated serial number in violation of the National Firearms Acts. Arce faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Lee Roy Garcia, age 24 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of aiding and abetting distribution of methamphetamine and one count of being an unlawful drug user is possession of a firearm. Garcia faces a maximum of 40 years in prison and a fine of $5,000,000.

Daniel Valdez, age 28 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to distribution of 2.8 grams of methamphetamine. At sentencing, Valdez faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

Juan Garcia, age 37 of Cherokee, Oklahoma, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to aiding and abetting the distribution of 3.25 grams of methamphetamine. At sentencing, Garcia faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000. 

Fernando Perez, age 24 of Mexico, pleaded guilty Tuesday to distribution of 12.8 grams of methamphetamine. Perez faces a maximum of 40 years in prison and a fine of $5,000,000.

Jamie Villareal, age 29 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to aiding and abetting the distribution of 20.4 grams of methamphetamine. Villareal faces a maximum of 40 years in prison and a fine of $5,000,000. 

Daniel Cruz, age 20 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to distributing 8.2 grams of methamphetamine. Cruz faces a maximum of 40 years in prison and a fine of $5,000,000.

Javier Villareal, age 37 of Hunnington, Arkansas, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to aiding and abetting the distribution of methamphetamine. Villareal faces a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $5,000,000 fine. 

Benjamin Chronister, age 30 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to aiding and abetting the distribution of methamphetamine. At sentencing, Chronister faces a maximum of 40 years in prison and a fine of $5,000,000. 

Gilberto Avila, age 29 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of using a communication facility to facilitate a drug trafficking crime. Avila faces a maximum of 8 years in prison and a fine of $500,000.

David Gutierrez-Cervantes, age 32 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of using a communication facility to facilitate a drug trafficking crime. Gutierrez-Cervantes was originally indicted on October 11, 2012. He will face a maximum of 8 years in prison and a fine of $500,000. 

Cody Pittman, age 29 of Irving, Texas, pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy to distribute 585.4 grams of methamphetamine. Pittman faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

Sandra Payne, age 42 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of use a communication facility in facilitating a drug trafficking crime. Payne faces a maximum of 8 years in jail and a $500,000 fine.

Carlton Mathews, age 27 of Waldron, Arkansas, pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Mathews faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $2,000,000 fine. 

Michael Thompson, age 31 of Hatfield, Arkansas, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. He was originally indicted on October 11, 2012. Thompson faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000.

Operation Great Scott was a joint operation between the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the 15th Judicial District Drug Task Force, the Arkansas State Police, the Fort Smith Police Department, the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, and other local agencies. Assistant United States Attorneys Clay Fowlkes, Candace Taylor, and Brandon Carter are prosecuting the cases for the United States. 

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