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Press Release

Two Sacramento Area Men Indicted for Cocaine Trafficking

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

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment today against Jose Manuel Chavez Zepeda, 54, of Carmichael, and Denis Zacarias Ponce Castillo, 37, of Sacramento, charging them with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and distribution of cocaine, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, from at least April 22, 2016, until March 2022, Chavez distributed cocaine in kilogram quantities that he obtained from a source of supply in Mexico connected to the Cartel Jalisco Nuevo Generación (CJNG). Ponce worked for Chavez as one of his larger sub-dealers and later as his “stash pad” manager. In June, 2021, Chavez and Ponce sold a half kilogram of cocaine to a confidential source in Sacramento.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Sacramento Area Intelligence/Narcotics Task Force (SAINT). Assistant U.S. Attorney David Spencer is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Chavez and Ponce face a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine. Any sentence, however, would 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. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at

Updated March 31, 2022

Drug Trafficking