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November 28, 2012

Department of Justice

United States Attorney William C. Killian Eastern District of Tennessee


Tomas Estrada Sarabia Sentenced To 40 Years In Prison For Role In Major Cocaine Trafficking Organization Operating In The Tri-Cities Area

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. - On Tuesday, November 27, 2012, U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan sentenced Tomas Estrada Sarabia, 38, of Johnson City, Tenn., to serve 480 months in federal prison for his leadership role in a vast cocaine conspiracy and for possessing firearms in furtherance of his drug trafficking.

Sarabia was one of 36 individuals indicted in October 2010 for engaging in large scale cocaine and marijuana trafficking. Law enforcement agents made over 100 cocaine buys from various individuals involved in this conspiracy. At this time, 34 of individuals have been sentenced. Sarabia and the majority of the other individuals involved in this case were in the United States illegally and will be deported after serving their sentences.

From approximately May 2008 through October 2010, Sarabia was a primary source of supply and distributor of cocaine and marijuana in the Tri-Cities area. The majority of his supply came from Mexico, was transported to several main hubs in the United States, including Chicago and Houston, and then distributed throughout the country. He obtained approximately one kilogram of cocaine every two weeks that he redistributed or had others redistribute for him in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

On approximately 25 separate occasions, Sarabia sold cocaine or assisted in the sale of cocaine to an individual working with law enforcement. During at least two of these transactions he possessed firearms. Ultimately, law enforcement agents concluded the overall investigation by executing 13 search warrants at various locations in Johnson City, Kingsport and Knoxville, Tenn. During these searches, agents found approximately 3.5 kilograms of cocaine, 200 pounds of marijuana and a significant number of firearms and ammunition. During a search of Sarabia’s residence, agents located an approximate half kilogram of cocaine, several firearms, ammunition and digital scales.

U.S. Attorney William C. Killian stated, “Our prosecutors and the federal and state law enforcement agencies working on this case did a tremendous job of obtaining and presenting the evidence in this case. We were able to show the scope of the drug distribution activities of the organization, including the use and threatened use of firearms that often attaches to the illegal distribution of drugs. I want to thank all those involved in bringing this individual to justice.”

Law enforcement agencies participating in the investigation which led to the indictment and subsequent conviction of Sarabia and others include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee First Judicial District Drug Task Force, Tennessee Second Judicial District Drug Task Force, Sullivan County Tennessee Sheriff’s Office, Kingsport Tennessee Police Department, Bristol Tennessee Police Department, Carter County Tennessee Sheriff’s Office, Elizabethton Tennessee Police Department, Erwin Tennessee Police Department, Washington County Tennessee Sheriff’s Office, Johnson City Tennessee Police Department, Jonesborough Tennessee Police Department, Hamblen County Tennessee Sheriff’s Office, Morristown Tennessee Police Department, Johnson County Tennessee Sheriff’s Office, Knox County Tennessee Sheriff’s Office, Knoxville Tennessee Police Department, Knoxville Tennessee High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wayne Taylor and Christian Lampe represented the United States.

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.

Funding for some of the task forces involved in this investigation also came from the Appalachian HIDTA which was created in 1998, one of 32 areas in the nation that have been designated as HIDTAs. The HIDTA Program began in 1988 when Congress authorized the Director of The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to designate areas within the United States which exhibit serious drug trafficking problems and harmfully impact other areas of the country as HIDTAs. The HIDTA Program provides additional federal resources to those areas to help eliminate or reduce drug trafficking and its harmful consequences.

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