Another Guilty Plea in Multi-Defendant Drug Trafficking Case
BOISE – The tenth person in a large-scale methamphetamine trafficking operation pled guilty in federal court today, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. The remaining defendant, Victor Chavez Garcia, of Nampa, Idaho, is set for trial on July 10.
Benjamin Prieto, 26, formerly living in Nampa, pled guilty to a superseding information charging him with attempted possession with intent to distribute 50 grams of methamphetamine.
According to his plea agreement, Prieto contacted co-defendant Jose Escobedo-Gonzalez on December 29, 2010, and made arrangements to obtain in excess of fifty grams of a mixture containing methamphetamine. Prieto admitted he intended to obtain the methamphetamine and distribute it to others. Although arrangements were made between the two men, Prieto did not ultimately receive the methamphetamine on that date.
Sentencing is set for September 17, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge at the federal courthouse in Boise. Prieto faces a minimum five years up to forty years in prison, a maximum fine of $5 million, and at least four years of supervised release.
Nine co-defendants pled guilty earlier to related charges, including conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; money laundering; and use of a communication device in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. Eight are scheduled to be sentenced this summer. Co-defendant Jorge Luis Cardoza, a Mexican national, was sentenced in June to 120 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
The defendants are charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine in the Treasure Valley. According to plea agreements, the conspiracy began in September 2009 and continued to mid-January 2011. The organization brought pounds of methamphetamine into Idaho from surroundings states and distributed it throughout the Treasure Valley. During the investigation, law enforcement officers seized five pounds of methamphetamine, marijuana, numerous firearms, vehicles, and more than $30,000 in currency. The United States is seeking forfeiture.
The Organized Crime/Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) case, named “Operation Flamethrower,” is the result of a year-long, multi-agency investigation. Investigators and prosecutors from federal, state, and local agencies cooperated in the arrests and seizures. It included the cooperative law enforcement efforts of the Nampa Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Canyon County Sheriff's Office, Canyon County SWAT team, Metro Violent Crime Task Force, Idaho State Police, Caldwell Police Department, Ada County Sheriff's Office, Boise Police Department, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Canyon County Prosecutor's Office, and the United States Attorney's Office.
The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations.
Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a collaborative effort by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and communities to prevent and deter gun violence.