FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2010
DRUG TRAFFICKER STRUGGLED WITH THIEVES, SEIZURES, DEADBEAT CUSTOMERS
KANSAS CITY, KAN. – The leader of a drug trafficking ring targeted by federal investigators in Operation Loadrunner has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison, U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch said today.
Rene Garcia-Rodriguez, 35, Kansas City, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana.
In his plea, Garcia-Rodriguez admitted that from April 2006 to August 2007 he was at the top of a drug trafficking organization in Kansas City, Kan., that distributed cocaine and marijuana and shipped large amounts of cash to suppliers in Mexico. Using electronic surveillance and other methods, Operation Loadrunner investigators documented Garcia-Rodriguez’s operations in detail, including his troubles collecting from customers who were slow to pay, losing loads of drugs and cash seized by law enforcement officers, and chasing thieves who stole drugs from his secret storage places.
Court records show Garica-Rodriguez often struggled to keep his trafficking operations under control. Some of his customers were slow to pay. Co-defendant Yehia Hassen, who over time bought more than 100 kilograms of cocaine from Garcia-Rodriguez, at one point was as much as $500,000 in debt to Garcia-Rodriguez. Operation Loadrunner investigators overheard conversations in which Garcia-Rodriguez and other conspirators talked about whether to apply pressure by kidnapping Hassen’s mother, who lived in Kansas City.
Thieves were a problem for Garcia-Rodriguez. In August 2007, someone broke into a house in the 1300 block of Nebraska in Kansas City, Kan., that Garcia-Rodriguez was using to store and distribute drugs. The thieves got away with 180 pounds of marijuana. Operation Loadrunner investigators overheard conversations in which Garcia-Rodriguez and other conspirators attempted to find the thieves to retaliate.
Law enforcement seizures caused headaches for Garcia-Rodriguez, too. The list included:
– $169,000 seized in August 2006 by the Virginia State Patrol from couriers carrying money from a customer to Garcia-Rodriguez.
-- $448,960 seized by the Kansas Highway Patrol in September 2006. The money was bound for one of Garcia-Rodriguez’s suppliers in Mexico.
– $135,005 seized by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in October 2006. Three women were carrying currency strapped to their bodies with flesh colored body suits. They were taking the money to one of Garcia-Rodriguez’s suppliers in Mexico.
– 5 kilograms of cocaine seized in October 2006 by the Virginia State Police. The drugs were hidden in a compartment in the front bumper of the courier’s vehicle.
– 191 pounds of marijuana seized by the New Mexico State Patrol in December 2006. The couriers were driving a Ford Explorer towing a Loadrunner trailer, the device that gave Operation Loadrunner its name.
– $107,000 seized by the Kansas Highway Patrol in May 2007. After that, investigators overheard Garcia-Rodriguez criticizing his couriers for mistakes including driving together in a caravan.
– 560 pounds of marijuana seized by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in July 2007.
– 15 kilograms of cocaine and $54,000 in cash seized Aug. 28, 2007, when more than 20 defendants were arrested at the close of Operation Loadrunner.
Welch commended the agencies and agents who took part in Operation Loadrunner, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Overland Park Police Department, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the Independence Police Department, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Zabel and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tris Hunt.