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Press Release

Fresno Man Pleads Guilty to Interstate Marijuana Shipments

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — Elias Zambrano Jr., 41, of Fresno, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana that was shipped from Fresno to Kansas City, Missouri, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, in November 2018, Zambrano’s co-defendants coordinated the shipment of nearly 500 pounds of marijuana to Kansas City. The first shipment was seized from Halen Frazier, of Kingsville, Missouri, during a traffic stop after Tien Van Phan, of Milpitas, delivered 92 pounds of marijuana to him in two suitcases at a hotel in Kansas City.

According to the plea agreement, Zambrano helped Patrick Maldonado, of Madera, to pack 384 pounds of marijuana for a second shipment that was placed in a hidden compartment in a trailer. David Agustus McGowan, of Kansas City, drove the truck that towed the trailer. That load was intercepted by Arizona troopers after stopping McGowan for a broken tail light on his truck. In addition to the marijuana, $1,629 in cash was seized.

Following these seizures, agents executed a search warrant at Zambrano’s residence in Fresno and found two loaded firearms, packaged bags of processed marijuana, and a money counter. As part of the plea agreement, Zambrano will forfeit the firearms, ammunition and magazines seized during the search.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force consisting of agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration; Homeland Security Investigations; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Sheriff’s Offices of Tulare, Kings, and Fresno Counties; the Fresno Police Department; the Arizona Department of Health; and the Kansas City Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.

Frazier and Phan previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced respectively to two years in prison and three and a half years in prison. Charges are pending against the remaining defendants. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Zambrano is scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 16. He faces a minimum statutory penalty of five years in prison, a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in prison, and a $5 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Updated May 17, 2021

Drug Trafficking