jury convicts california man of distributing cocaine
$1.4 million, 3 kilos of cocaine seized from vehicle
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Fresno, Calif., man was convicted in federal court today after law enforcement officers found more than $1.4 million and nearly three kilograms of cocaine hidden in the cab of a vehicle as he was traveling through Greene County, Mo.
Efrain Orozco,42, of Fresno, a naturalized citizen of the United States, was found guilty of both counts of a federal indictment that charged him with possessing cocaine and crack cocaine with the intent to distribute.
Co-defendant Fernando Gutierrez-Ponce, 27, of Farmington, New Mexico, a naturalized citizen of the United States, pleaded guilty on Sept. 2, 2011, to possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute.
Gutierrez-Ponce was driving a 2006 International tractor pulling a flatbed trailer westbound on Interstate 44 (west of U.S. Highway 65) on March 20, 2010. Gutierrez-Ponce and Orozco, a passenger in the tractor, were stopped for a compliance and safety inspection. Missouri State Highway Patrol commercial motor vehicle officers became suspicious and searched the vehicle. They removed a portion of the interior wall of the tractor and found 62 bundles of cash, totaling $1,433,981. They also found a bundle that contained nearly three kilograms of cocaine and two bundles that contained approximately 55.5 grams of crack cocaine.
The government has initiated administrative forfeiture proceedings in order to seize the money that was found in the vehicle.
Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Springfield, Mo., deliberated for an hour and 40 minutes before returning the guilty verdict to U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr, ending a trial that began Monday, Sept. 12, 2011.
Under federal statutes, Orozco is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $6 million. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David P. Rush and Cindy Hyde. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
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