Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

MARCH 25, 2010




            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that three Mexican nationals were convicted by a federal jury today of participating in a conspiracy to distribute hundreds of pounds of marijuana.

            Ramon Benavente-Zubia, 38, Mateo Ruiz-Zarate, 27, and Elias Isaac Guerrero-Ramirez, 28, who are all citizens of Mexico, were found guilty of the charges contained in a Feb. 9, 2010, federal indictment.

            All three co-defendants were found guilty of participating in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana between Jan. 1, 2008, and Jan. 7, 2010 and with possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute. Benavente-Zubia was also found guilty of illegally reentering the United States after having been deported six times.

            On Jan. 6, 2010, a Shawnee County, Kan., Sheriff’s deputy conducted a traffic stop of a Ford F-250 truck on eastbound I-70. The truck was carrying 250 kilograms (approximately 550 pounds) of marijuana, contained in five metal boxes hidden inside an external gas tank in the bed of the truck.

            Law enforcement officers followed the driver (who has not been publicly identified) of the truck to his destination at a Wendy’s restaurant near Interstate 435 and Front Street for a controlled delivery. During surveillance of the truck, officers observed a silver Chevrolet truck, driven by Benavente-Zubia, arrive and park next to the Ford truck. A passenger in Benavente-Zubia’s vehicle got into the Ford truck and drove away. Benavente went inside the restaurant and sat down with the driver; he was later arrested.

            Law enforcement officers followed the Ford truck to the Kansas City, Mo., residence of Guerrero-Ramirez and Ruiz-Zarate, where it entered a detached garage. Law enforcement officers surrounded the residence then entered the garage and the back yard of the residence. Guerrero-Ramirez was arrested next to the garage. Ruiz-Zarate jumped over a fence and ran, but was apprehended a couple of blocks away.

            Officers found tools and equipment in the garage that were used to drain the diesel fuel from the external tank, remove the tank from the bed of the truck and open the tank to remove the marijuana hidden inside. Inside the basement of the house, officers found a Colt .22-caliber revolver, as well as plastic containers, scales, baggies, gloves and a paper trash bag with marijuana residue, indicating a distribution site.

            Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City deliberated approximately two and a half hours before returning the guilty verdicts to U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple, ending a trial that began Monday, March 22, 2010.

            Under federal statutes, each defendant is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of 40 years in federal prison without parole, for each of the drug-trafficking convictions. Benavente-Zubia is also subject to a sentence of up to two years in federal prison without parole for the immigration conviction. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.

            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Rhoades. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Kansas Highway Patrol, and the Kansas City International Airport Police.


This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at