Two Sentenced in Houston Cocaine Trafficking Conspiracy
|Aug. 7, 2012|
HOUSTON – Jose L. Paredes-Santos, 32, from Honduras, and Calixto Centeno Vazquez, 38, from the Dominican Republic, have landed in federal prison for their roles in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy operating in and around the Houston area, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Paredes-Santos aka Dennis Orlando Bonilla-Rodas and Vazquez aka Angel Evans Saez-Colon both entered guilty pleas on Feb. 27, 2012, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.
Today, U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, who accepted the guilty pleas, handed Paredes-Santos and Vazquez 120 and 135-month respective sentences and further ordered each to serve a five-year-term of supervised release upon completion of their time in prison. In handing down the sentences, Judge Rosenthal noted that in addition to the cocaine involved in the case, each defendant also possessed a firearm as part of the offense. She also found Vazquez to be a supervisor of the charged criminal activity. Sandra Baez, 44, of Orlando, Fla., also pleaded guilty in this case and will be sentenced Nov. 19, 2012.
At the time of their convictions, each defendant admitted that between on or about Jan. 1, 2009, and on or about March 26, 2011, at or near Houston and in other locations, to having conspired and agreed with each other and other persons to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. In furtherance of this drug trafficking conspiracy, they acknowledged engaging in a variety of activities, to include possessing, packaging and transporting cocaine in the Houston area and/or helping others engage in those types of illegal activities.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents and other law enforcement officers began conducting surveillance at a residence located on the 11000 block of Bethnal Green Drive in Houston. On March 26, 2011, at approximately 3:45 p.m., agents and officers stopped two vehicles which had just left the Bethnal residence - a red Mini Cooper driven by Vazquez and a black Mercedes driven by Baez. They were detained and a law enforcement canine subsequently alerted to the presence of drugs in the Mercedes. 10 bundles of cocaine hidden in an altered natural void in the vehicle was discovered which had a gross weight of approximately 10 kilograms.
Soon after the traffic stop, agents went to the Bethnal residence and approached Paredes-Santos seeking permission to search both the residence as well as a Nissan Murano parked in the driveway. A loaded 9 mm Beretta semi-automatic pistol was found and seized as well as several items indicating the residence was being used for drug trafficking.
Paredes-Santos admitted the handgun was his and said he had received it as a “gift” earlier that day.
A second residence, that of Vazquez, located on the 400 block of West Road was later searched, at which time a Glock .45 caliber handgun, approximately $46,000, a heat sealer and several plastic bags for use in the heat sealer were discovered.
This case is the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation dubbed Operation It’s A Wrap, led by the DEA with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations and the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Arthur R. Jones.