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May 9, 2011

Department of Justice

United States Attorney William C. Killian Eastern District of Tennessee


GREENEVILLE, Tenn - On Friday, May 6, 2011, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville, a jury returned guilty verdicts against Abel Martinez Tavera, 38, of Winston Salem, N. Car., on federal drug and firearms charges. The jury convicted Tavera of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, possessing the drug with the intent to distribute it, and possessing of a firearm in furtherance of these drug trafficking crimes.

The evidence presented at trial consisted of the following: In March 2010, an undercover agent made multiple methamphetamine purchases ranging from four to eight ounces in the Greene County, Tenn., area from co-defendant Guadalupe Granado. The undercover agent and Granado then began negotiating for a 10 to 20 pound methamphetamine transaction. Testimony from the trial indicated that the methamphetamine was being manufactured in the Winston Salem, N. Car., area. Numerous recorded conversations were introduced during the trial wherein Granado told the agent he needed to coordinate with “his people” to obtain and deliver the methamphetamine.

On May 14, 2010, soon after the scheduled 10 pound methamphetamine deal was supposed to occur, law enforcement agents conducted traffic stops in Hamblen County, Tenn., of the cars and trucks known to be involved in transporting and distributing the methamphetamine. Agents proceeded to search two of the vehicles and located the 10 pounds of methamphetamine in the back bed of a Dodge Ram pickup truck underneath a quantity of roofing nails and a 9 mm firearm in a Chevrolet Cavalier. Both of these vehicles had been observed by law enforcement meeting together at the same time and place as the scheduled drug transaction. Both vehicles engaged in counter surveillance techniques. Tavera was a passenger in the Dodge Ram truck containing the methamphetamine.

Arrests were made on all participants in the transaction: Tavera, Guadalupe Granado, Marco Antonio Rivera, Placido Ventura Mendoza, and Elias Mazariegos Perez. Testimony from the trial revealed that the seizure of this quantity of methamphetamine was the largest in the Eastern District of Tennessee and one of the largest in the history of the state.

Law enforcement agencies participating in the investigation which led to indictment and subsequent conviction of Tavera include the Drug Enforcement Administration Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force located in Johnson City, assisted by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Third Judicial Drug Task Force, Fourth Judicial Drug Task Force, Morristown Police Department, Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office, Cocke County Sheriff’s Office, Johnson City Police Department, Elizabethton Police Department, Kingsport Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Taylor represented the United States at trial.

A formal sentencing date of September 12, 2011, has been set before U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Greer. Tavera is facing up to life in prison, $750,000 dollars in fines and at least five years of supervised release.

This case was part of the Department's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) programs. OCDETF is the primary weapon of the United States against the highest level drug trafficking organizations operating within the United States, importing drugs into the United States, or laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking. The HIDTA program enhances and coordinates drug control efforts among local, State, and Federal law enforcement agencies. The program provides agencies with coordination, equipment, technology, and additional resources to combat drug trafficking and its harmful consequences in critical regions of the United States.

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