Kentucky Defendants Prosecuted as Part of Nationwide Takedown
Lexington defendants charged with drug trafficking, money laundering offenses
SAN DIEGO and LEXINGTON, Ky. – Multiple indictments were unsealed today, in San Diego federal court, charging more than 40 members of an international scheme with conspiring to launder millions of dollars in illegal drug proceeds. These indictments are part of a nationwide takedown stemming from a multi-year investigation led by the FBI San Diego Cross Border Violence Task Force and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
In addition to the federal indictments unsealed today in San Diego, dozens of additional defendants have been charged across the United States related to the investigation. Those include defendants charged in the Southern District of Ohio, the Eastern District of Kentucky, the District of Kansas, and the Eastern District of Washington.
Shontail M. Hocker, 42, of Lexington, Ky., was charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California with conspiring to commit money laundering based on her involvement with individuals implicated in the San Diego investigation. According to the indictment filed in San Diego, Hocker conspired with others to transport drug proceeds, to promote drug trafficking activity and to conceal the nature and ownership of the drug proceeds. If convicted, Hocker faces up to 20 years imprisonment. The indictment against Hocker is an accusation only, and she is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Based on investigations into Hocker’s money laundering activities, law enforcement developed information related to drug trafficking activities occurring in the Eastern District of Kentucky. Multiple law enforcement agencies partnered to conduct the investigations.
On May 18, 2017, the Lexington Police Department and the Kentucky State Police, in coordination with FBI, stopped a Jeep Cherokee towing a trailer. A search of the trailer revealed six kilograms of cocaine. Officers and agents arrested the occupants of the Jeep, Gerardo Mejia-Palacio and Hector Salas-Pina, both from Phoenix. Mejia-Palacio and Salas-Pina were charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky with drug trafficking crimes. Further investigation revealed that Mejia-Palacio and Salas-Pina conspired with Ansar I. McIver, and others, to distribute controlled substances in Lexington. On June 12, 2017, FBI, the Kentucky State Police, and the Lexington Police Department executed a federal search warrant at McIver’s residence. During the course of that search, agents seized $586,000 cash, approximately 750 grams of fentanyl and over 100 grams of cocaine. McIver was subsequently charged in federal court with conspiracies to distribute controlled substances and commit money laundering.
On September 15, 2017, Mejia-Palacio pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. His sentencing is scheduled for May 18, 2018. Mejia-Palacio faces not less than 10 years in federal prison.
On January 24, 2018, McIver pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, 400 grams or more of fentanyl, and 1,000 grams or more of heroin. McIver also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering and agreed to forfeit the $586,000 in cash. In his plea agreement, McIver admitted he has a prior federal felony drug conviction. McIver’s sentencing is scheduled for May 25, 2018. He faces a prison sentence of not less than 20 years.
On February 5, 2018, Salas-Pina was found guilty by a jury of a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances (5 kilograms or more of cocaine; 400 grams or more of fentanyl; and 1,000 grams or more of heroin) and possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. Salas-Pina also pleaded guilty to unlawful reentry, after having been deported following a conviction for an aggravated felony offense. Salas-Pina’s sentencing is scheduled for May 18, 2018. He faces not less than 10 years in federal prison.
“Through cooperative efforts, law enforcement personnel disrupted significant drug trafficking operations in Kentucky,” stated Robert M. Duncan, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “McIver, Salas-Pina, and Mejia-Palacio were involved in distributing large amounts of deadly drugs, including fentanyl, in our community. Due to the cooperation of several federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, large quantities of deadly drugs were removed from our streets and likely saved many lives. I commend our law enforcement partners for their tremendous cooperation and effort.”
The Court will impose any sentences for McIver, Salas-Pina, and Mejia-Palacio after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and applicable federal statutes.
In addition to the money laundering charges from San Diego, Hocker is also facing federal drug trafficking charges in Lexington. On February 9, 2018, DEA and the Kentucky State Police arrested Hocker, David Morris, and Kim Davis. Then, on March 1, 2018, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Hocker, Morris, and Davis, charging them with conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and possessing 500 grams or more of cocaine with intent to distribute it, for conduct alleged to have occurred in Shelby County, Kentucky. Hocker was also charged with possessing fentanyl with intent to distribute it. The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of $105,880 in cash. Hocker, Morris, and Davis each face imprisonment for not less than 10 years on the cocaine conspiracy charge.
Hocker, Morris, and Davis are scheduled to be arraigned on these charges on March 8, 2018, in United States District Court in Lexington.
United States Attorney Duncan; Amy Hess, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Louisville; Chris Evans, Special Agent in Charge, DEA Louisville; Richard Sanders, Commissioner Kentucky State Police; and Chief Lawrence Weathers, Lexington Police Department, jointly made the announcement.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Kentucky State Police, and Lexington Police Department conducted the investigations in the Eastern District of Kentucky. Assistant United States Attorneys Gary Todd Bradbury and Roger W. West represent the United States in the cases in the Eastern District of Kentucky.
The cases are the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.
Any indictment is an accusation only. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.