United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins
Western District of North Carolina
Investigation Led Law Enforcement To Seizures Of Near-Pure Methamphetamine
And A “Superlab” In Georgia
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Methamphetamine trafficker Cesar Sierro-Pineda, 34, of Mexico, was sentenced to life in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Voorhees today for his role in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Georgia and the Carolinas; Greg McLeod, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NC SBI); Sheriff Kevin L. Auten of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office; Sheriff Chris Shew of the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office; and Sheriff Phillip Redmond of the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office.
According to filed court documents and court proceedings, Sierro-Pineda, who was also known as “El Chocado,” was a distributor for the Mexican drug cartel “La Familia Michoacana.” From November 2010 through February 2011, Sierro-Pineda imported into the United States from Mexico near-pure crystal methamphetamine, also known as “ice.” The defendant also cooked the methamphetamine in an informal “superlab” in his home in Duluth, Ga., court records show. A superlab is a laboratory capable of producing 10 or more pounds of methamphetamine in a single production cycle.
Four other defendants have been sentenced in connection with the case:
• Hildeberto Gonzalez-Chavez, 32, of Mexico, pleaded guilty on July 28, 2011, and was sentenced on October 2, 2012, to 168 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.
• Edgar Santana, 23, of Atlanta, Ga., pleaded guilty on August 11, 2011, and was sentenced on October 2, 2012, to 33 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release.
• Henry Clay Randleman, 56, of Ronda, N.C., pleaded guilty on May 18, 2011, and was sentenced on December 12, 2012, to 120 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.
• Jason Scott Holbrook, 35, of Hamptonville, N.C., pleaded guilty on June 3, 2011, and was sentenced on January 9, 2012, to 78 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.
Court filings indicate that on November 8, 2010, Sierro-Pineda attempted to import approximately 6.5 kilograms of methamphetamine “ice” into the United States using a courier. U.S. authorities seized the methamphetamine at the International Port of Entry in Laredo, Texas. Sierro-Pineda continued selling methamphetamine to customers in other states, including North Carolina, court records show. One of Sierro-Pineda’s buyers in North Carolina was his co-defendant, Gonzalez-Chavez, who distributed the methamphetamine through Randleman and Holbrook in Yadkin, Wilkes, and Iredell Counties, among others. According to court documents, on February 25, 2011, law enforcement raided Sierro-Pineda’s superlab in Duluth, seizing five gallons of liquid methamphetamine in the process of being converted to crystal methamphetamine. That volume of liquid methamphetamine could be converted into 20 pounds of methamphetamine. During the investigation, law enforcement also seized more than two additional pounds of methamphetamine and 20 firearms.
The defendant has been in local federal custody since May 2011. He will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. Federal sentences are served without parole.
The investigation was conducted by HSI, SBI, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office, and the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office. The prosecution was handled for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven R. Kaufman.