News and Press Releases

Organized Criminal Ring Targeted in “Operation Methopotamia”

May 23, 2008

SERGIO PEREZ-HERNANDEZ, 32, from Guerrero, Mexico, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to ten years in prison and five years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and Heroin. PEREZ-HERNANDEZ was one of eight people arrested in August 2007, in early morning raids in Vancouver, Washington. About a pound each of methamphetamine and heroin, and more than $175,000 cash, were seized in the raids. The arrests occurred following a two year investigation of drug trafficking dubbed, “Operation Methopotamia.”

At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said, “People who prey on the weaknesses of others deserve every day in prison. Methamphetamine is horrific.”

SERGIO PEREZ-HERNANDEZ was a trusted assistant to ring leader Augustine Bustos-Chavez, 23, of Vancouver, Washington. The ring dealt methamphetamine and heroin being brought up to Washington and Oregon from Mexico. In addition to Bustos-Chavez, and SERGIO PEREZ-HERNANDEZ, three other defendants were charged federally. Carlos Pineda-Nunez, 23, and Jesus Antonio Villa-Anaya, 33, and Jose Cortez, 19, delivered the drugs to users throughout the greater Vancouver, Washington area. Over the course of the investigation agents and officers witnessed the defendants making drug deliveries to residences or cars in the parking lots of grocery stores, video stores and hardware stores. Investigators used confidential informants to make drug purchases, and examined phone records showing tens of thousands of short calls coming in to the cell phones of the dealers. That type of calling pattern is indicative of drug dealing, with users calling suppliers for their “fix.”

SERGIO PEREZ-HERNANDEZ pleaded guilty February 26, 2008. He is the fourth defendant to be sentenced in the case. Carlos Pineda-Nunez pleaded guilty November 15, 2007, and was sentenced February 11, 2008, to five years in prison. Jesus Antonio Villa-Anaya pleaded guilty February 1, 2008, and was sentenced to 23 months in custody on May 2, 2008. Jose Cortez pleaded guilty November 1, 2007, and was sentenced February 1, 2008, to 23 months in prison. Augustine Bustos-Chavez pleaded guilty February 7, 2008, and is scheduled to be sentenced August 21, 2008. All of these defendants were in the United States illegally and will be deported following their prison terms.

More than a dozen defendants identified during the two year run of “Operation Methopotamia” have been sentenced to federal prison terms. For example in 2006, Sanbino Garcia-Quiroz a/k/a Otoniel Rodriguez-Mercado was sentenced to 151 months in prison, Jose Angel Lopez-Aguilar was sentenced to 135 months in prison and Jose Vazquez-Lopez, was sentenced to 63 months in prison for Methamphetamine trafficking. Those three defendants were responsible for eight pounds of methamphetamine seized in the investigation.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Clark Skamania Drug Task Force (CSDTF), the Vancouver Police Department, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sarah Vogel and Matthew Thomas.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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