News and Press Releases

California man sentenced to 108-Months imprisonment for federal cocaine trafficking conviction

January 13, 2011

This morning, United States District Judge Judith C. Herrera sentenced California resident Jorge Alberto Paez Mariscal, 43, to a 108-month term of imprisonment to be followed by a five-year term of supervised release based on his narcotics trafficking conviction. Paez Mariscal has been in custody since his arrest on February 14, 2009.

United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said that Paez Mariscal and a co-defendant were arrested at the New Mexico Motor Transportation Police Division's (NMMTPD) Gallup Port of Entry on Interstate 40 after NMMTPD officers found 69 packages containing an aggregate of 67 kilograms of cocaine in the tractor-trailer that Paez Mariscal was driving. Paez Mariscal and his co-defendant Alejandro Cruz, a Mexican national who was a passenger in the tractor trailer, were initially charged in a criminal complaint filed on February 17, 2009 and later were indicted in a two-count indictment charging them with a narcotics trafficking conspiracy and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

According to the criminal complaint, on the afternoon of February 14, 2009, a NMMTPD inspector conducted a routine paperwork inspection of a tractor trailer owned and driven by Paez Mariscal. After noting discrepancies in the paperwork regarding the two vehicles being hauled in the trailer and ascertaining that Paez Mariscal and Cruz could not provide information about the ownership of the two vehicles, the inspector turned the matter over to a NMMTPD officer. After the two men denied having any illegal narcotics in the tractor trailer, the officer requested and obtained their consent to search the tractor trailer. The search uncovered 69 bundles containing cocaine secreted in the cab of the truck. During a post-arrest interview, Paez Mariscal admitted that he was transporting the cocaine from Los Angeles, California to Lexington, Kentucky and expected to be paid $700 per kilogram of cocaine for this service.

Paez Mariscal entered a guilty plea to count two of the indictment, charging him with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, on October 13, 2010 under a plea agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office. In his plea agreement, Paez Mariscal admitted that he agreed to transport the cocaine in exchange for payment because he was experiencing financial difficulties. He also said that his passenger, Cruz, was not aware of the presence of the cocaine in the tractor trailer until shortly before the two entered New Mexico.

On February 16, 2010, co-defendant Cruz entered a guilty plea to a one-count information charging him with misprison of a felony based on his failure to notify law enforcement authorities that Paez Mariscal was committing a felony by transporting narcotics. On April 29, 2010, Judge Herrera sentenced Cruz to twenty-four months imprisonment to be followed by a one-year term of supervised release.

The case was investigated by the NMMTPD and the Drug Enforcement Administration, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Elaine Y. Ramirez.

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