News and Press Releases

Head of the Quintero Drug Trafficking Enterprise Sentenced to Federal Prison

Dec. 8, 2011

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Juan Jose Quintero Payan, 69, of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, has been sentenced to 222 months in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to commit racketeering (RICO), Kenneth Magidson and Robert Pitman, United States Attorneys for the Southern and Western Districts of Texas, respectively, announced today along with Javier F. Peña, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Lucy Cruz, special agent in charge of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI).

“Today’s sentencing reinforces DEA’s commitment to continue our relentless fight against drug traffickers everywhere,” said Peña. “Quintero-Payan’s 222-month sentence shows the severity of Payan’s disregard for the laws that are in place in the United States.”

According to the charges to which he pleaded guilty and the plea agreement filed in open court, Quintero-Payan was a leader of a long standing criminal enterprise whose operations spanned the Western Hemisphere from the United States to the Caribbean, Central America and South America between 1978 to March 2002 when the current superseding indictment was filed. The charged conduct included the movement of numerous multi-ton loads of marijuana to the United States from Mexico, using specially altered natural gas tanker trucks, via El Paso, Texas. Multi-ton quantities of cocaine were acquired from Columbia and Peru for smuggling into Mexico by Quintero-Payan and other members of the conspiracy for re-shipment to the United States. According to the factual summary in the plea agreement, in one eight-month period alone, more than 90,000 kilos of marijuana were smuggled into the United States.

The charges detailed the movement of more than $20 million dollars in United States currency into banks in California and Texas and other deposits into banks in New York and the Cayman Islands during the 1980s. An additional $60 million was available for investment. As per the charges, a network of real estate was acquired in Texas and California related to the drug enterprise’s operations to include ranches, airstrips and residences.

“That’s more than $100 million in today’s economy,” noted Magidson. “This case represents the high-water mark for cooperation, perseverance and using the rule of law to defeat lawlessness.”

The charges grew out of a joint investigation coordinated by prosecutors in the Western District of Texas and Southern District of Texas dubbed Operation Cash Crop. The initial indictment was first brought in 1985 in San Antonio, Texas, which was superseded in March 1986, naming Quintero-Payan and 49 other defendants. Portions of those charges were tried in 1986 in San Antonio with additional prosecutions occurring in San Antonio and Brownsville, Texas, as a result of this investigative effort. The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation was led by the DEA and IRS-CI with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the United States Customs Service (now part of the Department of Homeland Security) and the Narcotics Service of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

"This is an important victory for the American public,” said Cruz. “The role of IRS-CI in narcotics investigations is to follow the money so we can financially disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations. We play a unique role in federal law enforcement’s counter-drug effort in that we target the profit and financial gains of narcotics traffickers which comprise a significant portion of the untaxed underground economy. IRS-CI is proud to provide its financial expertise as we work alongside our law enforcement partners to bring criminals to justice.”

Following the return of a sealed superseding indictment by a San Antonio grand jury and the issuance of a provisional arrest warrant in 2002, Quintero-Payan was arrested in Mexico. He fought against his extradition for eight years but landed in the U.S. on Friday, April 23, 2010, to face the federal charges. Upon release from U.S. prisons, Quintero-Payan will have served more than 26 years in custody between the U.S. and Mexico.

Magidson praised the dedication, investigative skill and prosecutorial determination to bring Quintero-Payan to justice. The case was worked in cooperation with the Office of International Affairs - Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice and Mexico’s Procuraduria General De La Republica (Office of the General Prosecutor of Mexico), both of which have worked in partnership for years with the Southern and Western Districts of Texas to achieve the extradition of Quintero of the United States and his successful prosecution. Assistant United States Attorney Charles Lewis of the Southern District of Texas prosecuted the Quintero-Payan case in San Antonio Division of the Western District of Texas.

 

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