CALIFORNIA MAN CONVICTED AS MEMBER OF LARGE DRUG CONSPIRACY
JORGE LUIS ESQUIVEL-ORTEGA, 36, a resident of Moreno Valley, California, was convicted today by a jury in United States District Court in Seattle of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The trial before the Hon. John C. Coughenour lasted two days. ESQUIVEL-ORTEGA, who had been on bond during trial, was ordered detained without bail after the verdict. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment, and a possible maximum sentence of life.
Court testimony revealed that in September 2002, ESQUIVEL-ORTEGA drove a mini-van from California to Auburn, Washington with 15 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a secret compartment. Drug Enforcement Administration agents were conducting a court-authorized wiretap on the intended recipient of the cocaine, a resident of Auburn. The car was stopped and seized as it approached the residence. ESQUIVEL-ORTEGA, and the three other occupants of the mini-van, including his wife and ten-year old daughter, were released at the time to avoid revealing the existence of the wiretap. In 2004, ESQUIVEL-ORTEGA was arrested by United States Deputy Marshals in California.
This case was part of a series of four related investigations that began in 1999 and focus on criminal organizations transporting drugs from Mexico to the Pacific Northwest. All of the investigations involved court authorized wiretaps. Over 90 persons have been convicted of felony drug offenses in the four investigations. Most entered guilty pleas, but five have been convicted after jury trials. There have been no acquittals. The Snohomish County Regional Drug Task Force has provided significant assistance in these investigations.
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jill Otake and Douglas B. Whalley prosecuted the case. For further information, please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer, United States Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington at (206) 553-4110.