Third Co-conspirator Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Cocaine Seized in Bakersfield
Agrees to Forfeit Over $3.1 Million in Cash
FRESNO, Calif. — Jose Luis Montoya-Salazar, aka Rafael Salazar-Sanchez (Montoya), 42, of Mexico City, pleaded guilty today to conspiring with Jimmy Gil, 35, of Shafter, and Luis Ricardo Eslava-Corral (Eslava) 42, of Sinaloa, Mexico, to import, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute 38 kilograms, or about 84 pounds, of cocaine, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. Montoya also agreed to the forfeiture of over $3.1 million in cash that drug agents seized during the investigation of the case.
In pleading guilty, Montoya admitted that he had conspired with Eslava and Gil to smuggle the cocaine into the United States from Mexico at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. The cocaine was off-loaded in Bakersfield, where Gil and Montoya took possession of the drug. Follow-up investigation resulted in the seizure of $3,104,661 in cash, representing drug proceeds, hidden in an asphalt roller at another location in Bakersfield. The seized cocaine has a street value of over $3 million.
Montoya is scheduled to appear for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill in Fresno on September 21, 2015. He faces a mandatory minimum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $10 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. Eslava and Gil previously pleaded guilty and are scheduled for sentencing on July 20 and July 27, respectively. Eslava and Montoya are subject to removal to Mexico after serving any prison sentence imposed.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Southern Tri-County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bakersfield Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case.