United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California
Nuestra Familia Gang Member Pleads Guilty In Ongoing Nuestra Familia Drug Trafficking Prosecution
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
CONTACT: Lauren Horwood
April 9, 2012
PHONE: (916) 554-2706
Docket #: 2:11-cr-0119 WBS
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that Juan Gallegos, aka Wino, 35, of Salinas, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to traffic methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana, and four other drug trafficking felonies. Sentencing is set for July 9, 2012.
This case is the product of an investigation into the activities of the Nuestra Familia, a violent Hispanic prison gang based in the California and federal prison systems. The gang exerts control over street-level Norteño gang members engaged in drug trafficking and violent crime.
According to the guilty plea, between 2004 and 2007, Gallegos and others distributed methamphetamine and cocaine for the Nuestra Familia’s Salinas Regiment. Previous trial testimony established that he transported, cut, and distributed methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. During the same time period, Gallegos also assisted in transporting large loads of methamphetamine and cocaine from Southern California to Northern California.
In May 2007, Gallegos and others met at a bar in San Juan Bautista to plan the transportation and distribution of 20 kilograms of cocaine. A suitable driver was selected based upon his lack of criminal history and a rental car was obtained to act as the “load” car. Gallegos helped to provide “security” by following the load car. On May 4, 2007, the two vehicles headed to the Los Angeles area to pick up the 20 kilograms of cocaine. The 20 kilograms of cocaine were picked up by the load car. While the drug exchange occurred, agents intercepted a call with the drug supplier. Gallegos is heard in the background of the call explaining to the supplier that the driver of the load car has a cover story and, if the load car is stopped, Gallegos will use his vehicle to create a diversion. During his guilty plea, Gallegos admitted that he provided security for the 20 kilograms of cocaine as they were transported in furtherance of the overall NF drug trafficking conspiracy.
A. Two Successful Jury Trials
The initial indictment of 25 defendants in June of 2007 led to two jury trials and the convictions of five defendants on multiple counts of drug trafficking. In the 2009 trial, one defendant demanded a speedy trial, was convicted, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. In the 2010 trial, four of the NF’s leadership defendants were each convicted on all of the counts in the indictment after a contentious four-month jury trial. Today’s guilty plea by Gallegos is the first conviction in a January 2011 indictment.
B. Significant Sentences and Guilty Pleas
The initial indictment also resulted in a number of significant sentences:
April 21, 2010, Manuel Gauna was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison.
December 13, 2010, Richard Mendoza was sentenced to 17½ years in prison.
February 22, 2011, Bismark Ocampo was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
May 25, 2011, the trial defendants were sentenced to the following:
Larry Amaro — 40 years in prison.
Ernest Killinger — 36½ years in prison.
Gerardo Mora — more than 33 years in prison.
Jason Stewart-Hanson — 25 years in prison.
July 25, 2011, Gabriel Caracheo — 25 years in prison.
July 27, 2011, David Ramirez — 15½ years in prison.
September 26, 2011, Fernando Villalpando — 20 years in prison.
October 17, 2011, Faustino Gonzalez — 15½ years in prison.
November 28, 2011, Oscar Campos-Padilla — 14 years in prison.
These cases were part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation. The OCDETF Program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.
This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the FBI’s Stockton Violent Crime Task Force, the San Joaquin County Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force, the Stockton Police Department, the Salinas Police Department, the Watsonville Police Department, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Assistant United States Attorneys Jason Hitt and William S. Wong are prosecuting the case.
When prosecuted in federal court, drug traffickers typically receive much harsher sentences. In addition to the longer sentences imposed, unlike state court prisoners who are released early on parole, there is no early release on parole in the federal system.