U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island
August 27, 2010
PROVIDENCE MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY
TO PURCHASE MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF COCAINE
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Providence man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence on Thursday to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and attempt to possess with the intent to distribute more than 5 kilos of cocaine. Jose J. Astacio, 40, was arrested in August 2008 after setting up a deal with an undercover FBI agent and others to purchase a million dollars worth of cocaine. Nearly a half million dollars had been delivered for the drugs when Astacio was arrested.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha, which was entered before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi.
At the defendant’s change of plea hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie S. Browne told the court, had the matter proceeded to trial, the government was prepared to present evidence that in August 2008, Jose Astacio met several times with an undercover FBI agent and two cooperating witnesses, indicating that he had $1,000,000 available for the purchase of large quantities of cocaine. He indicated that if the purchase went well he had additional sums of money for subsequent purchases. The parties agreed that the initial sale of cocaine to the defendant would be fifty kilograms.
On August 17, 2008, Astacio was contacted and confirmed his readiness to conduct a transaction on that day. The cooperating witnesses and undercover FBI agent met Astacio in Warwick where Astacio made arrangements for the delivery of half of the cash for the transaction. Astacio claimed a second associate had the other half of the money. Later, Astacio said he was having problems contacting the second associate and said he would take delivery of the drugs and return with the rest of the money.
Astacio followed one of the cooperating witnesses and another undercover law enforcement officer to a location in Providence where agents had placed over 50 kilos of cocaine. The defendant examined two of the kilos, and after satisfying himself as to the quality of the cocaine, Astacio closed up the packages and rubbed each kilo package with a plastic bag to remove his fingerprints.
After the defendant had completed the inspection of the cocaine, he activated a hidden compartment in the rear bumper area of his vehicle and began loading the cocaine into the hidden compartment. As he was loading a third kilo package into the car he was arrested. Agents seized $499,470 that had been provided for the drugs.
Astacio is scheduled to be sentenced January 13, 2011. He has been detained since his arrest.
The matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Rhode Island State Police; the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Task Force, including ATF, ICE, Providence Police, Pawtucket Police, Warwick Police Central Falls Police, Narragansett Police; and the Boston Police Department.