News and Press Releases



September 5, 2013


Fayetteville, Arkansas - Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that five defendants were sentenced this week as a result of charges brought during an operation known as “West End Gambler.” The operation began in November 2012 as an investigation of a drug-trafficking organization that was distributing methamphetamine in the Northwest Arkansas area. The five individuals sentenced were charged in an eight-count indictment filed on March 6, 2013. The Honorable Jimm Larry Hendren presided over the cases in the United States District Court in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

United States Attorney Eldridge commented, “We remain dedicated to working together to dismantle drug-trafficking organizations in Northwest Arkansas and across the Western District. These criminal enterprises bring crime into our communities and drugs onto our streets. We will continue to do all we can to keep our communities safe from this activity.”

According to documents filed in the case, the investigation began in October of 2012 when the DEA received information about an organization that was involved in distributing large quantities of methamphetamine in Northwest Arkansas. Arturo Vaca-Raya who resided in Springdale, was identified as the leader of this organization. As a result of the investigation, law enforcement agencies were able to identify 12 associates of Vaca-Raya who were also involved in the distribution of methamphetamine. Through the investigation, law enforcement agencies learned that Vaca-Raya was involved in smuggling large quantities of methamphetamine into Northwest Arkansas and distributing the methamphetamine to other drug dealers in Arkansas and Oklahoma. On December 2, 2012, the DEA learned that Vaca-Raya was expecting a large shipment of methamphetamine and placed his residence under surveillance. During the surveillance, the agents observed a co-conspirator from Texas named Maria Molina bring Vaca-Raya what appeared to be a large quantity of methamphetamine. Vaca-Raya was arrested later that day. The next day, on December 3, 2012, the DEA executed a search warrant on his residence. During the search, the agents recovered approximately 6.9 kilograms of methamphetamine, digital scales, a firearm, and ammunition.

Arturo Vaca-Raya, age 41 of Springdale, Arkansas, was sentenced to 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole and five years of supervised release for possession of more than 500 grams of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

Maria Molina, age 31 of Dallas, Texas, was sentenced to 48 months in prison without the possibility of parole and three years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. She was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Alfonzo Morales, age 27 of Springdale, Arkansas, was sentenced to 12 years in prison without the possibility of parole and three years of supervised release for the distribution of methamphetamine after selling two ounces of methamphetamine to a confidential informant.

Manuel Vaca, age 20 of Los Angeles, California, was sentenced to five years of probation for using a cell phone to facilitate the distribution of methamphetamine.

Griselda Monroy, age 29 of Springdale, Arkansas, was sentenced to 48 months in prison without the possibility of parole and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine for aiding and abetting in money laundering after wiring money derived from drug trafficking to Mexico and elsewhere.

The cases were investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Springdale Police Department, and the Fayetteville Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Clay Fowlkes prosecuted the cases for the United States.

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