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Defendant was Still Wearing Electronic Monitoring Bracelet from Nebraska at Arrest

September 11, 2008

LAURO AGUILAR-CANCHE a/k/a “Flaco,” 31, of Kalama, Washington was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 15 years in prison and five years of supervised release for Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute. The sentencing resolves two separate federal cases filed in Washington and Nebraska.

In October 2005, AGUILAR-CANCHE was arrested and charged in Nebraska when the car he was driving was found to have a secret compartment filled with large amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine. AGUILAR-CANCHE was released on bond in the Nebraska case, and was allowed to return here to Washington pending trial.

While still on bond for the Nebraska case, AGUILAR-CANCHE continued to engage in drug trafficking, conspiring with others here in Washington to distribute large amounts of methamphetamine. When he was arrested at his Kalama, Washington apartment on June 1, 2006, AGUILAR-CANCHE was still wearing the electronic monitoring ankle bracelet from Nebraska. “The notion that someone wearing an ankle bracelet... would come out here and deal” in “poison” is “stunning,“ said U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton at the sentencing hearing.

AGUILAR-CANCHE is the last of ten defendants sentenced in a case dubbed “Operation Garage Sale,” because some of the conspirators sold drugs from a Tacoma garage. At the time of his arrest, a search of AGUILAR-CANCHE’s apartment revealed not only cocaine, methamphetamine and cash, but ten cellular phones. According to records filed in the case, AGUILAR-CANCHE was frequently heard on court authorized wire-taps setting up drug deals. AGUILAR-CANCHE pleaded guilty April 30, 2008.

In asking for a lengthy sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Vince Lombardi highlighted AGUILAR-CANCHE’s continuing criminal conduct. AGUILAR-CANCHE “has shown himself to be undeterred by the threat of criminal prosecution. It is therefore necessary to impose a long sentence to protect the public. Defendant committed a serious drug offense in Nebraska, was charged in federal court, and knew he was facing a substantial sentence. He then proceeded to commit more drug offenses here in Washington while he was awaiting trial on the first case.”

Judge Leighton observed that at sentencing he must decide whether a defendant “is a bad person, or a good person who made an error in judgement.” The judge said he had “reached the conclusion that Mr. Aguilar is not a good person who made a mistake.” Judge Leighton said AGUILAR-CANCHE was “persistent, persistently bad, and tenacious” in committing the offense.

Other members of the same conspiracy previously sentenced include Marciano Mendez-Maya, 29, of Tacoma, Washington, was sentenced in July 2008, to ten years in prison and five years of supervised release for Possession of Heroin with Intent to Distribute; Carlos McPhie, 34, of Tacoma, Washington, sentenced in November 2007, to nine years in prison and five years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine, Methamphetamine and Heroin. Eduardo Gomez-Ramirez, 26, of Kalama, Washington, was sentenced to 60 months in prison. Gomez-Ramirez picked up drugs from ring members in Tacoma and distributed them in Southwest Washington; Manuel Bravo-Geraldo, 24, of Sea-Tac, Washington was sentenced to 37 months in prison. In Bravo-Geraldo’s apartment investigators found cocaine, methamphetamine, cutting agents, scales, packaging materials and more than $40,000 in cash hidden in the oven.

Thomas Mendoza-Aguilar, 25, was sentenced in August 2007, to ten years in prison and five years of supervised release and his wife Rosalva Villavicencio-Chavez, 23, was sentenced to 37 months in prison. When agents searched the couple’s apartment they found cocaine, methamphetamine, cutting agents and packaging materials as well as $3,000 cash hidden in a rice bag. Rosalva Villavicencio-Chavez, who was eight months pregnant at the time, was carrying a kilo of cocaine hidden under her clothing.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by DEA and the Washington State Patrol, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Tacoma Police Department, and the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Thomas and Vince Lombardi.

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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