Defendant Pleads Guilty to Heroin and Cocaine Trafficking Conspiracy
NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that LUIS J. COTTO, age 31, a resident of New York, pleaded guilty today to charges stemming from a heroin and cocaine trafficking conspiracy before U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon.
According to court documents, beginning in 2015 through 2016, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted an investigation that revealed the existence of a drug trafficking ring operating in St. Rose and LaPlace, Louisiana. Agents learned that COTTO was a source of narcotics for members of this conspiracy, driving narcotics into Louisiana from Texas, where he had owned a residence as well.
Court documents also outline that, on August 7, 2016, COTTO was stopped for a traffic violation while headed southwest on Interstate 44 near Vinita, Oklahoma, by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Based on COTTO’S suspicious conduct, the trooper called a trained drug canine to conduct an open-air sniff of COTTO’S vehicle. The canine alerted to the presence of contraband in the car. State troopers searched the vehicle and found approximately $225,000.00 in U.S. currency wrapped in plastic in one of the door panels.
COTTO pleaded guilty to the charges pending against him in the Third Superseding Indictment. As to Count 1, conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin and five kilograms or more of cocaine, he faces a mandatory minimum term of ten years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment, a $10,000,000.00 fine, and at least five years of supervised release. He also pleaded guilty to Count 12, use of a communications device in furtherance of drug trafficking, which carries up to four years in prison, a $250,000.00 fine, and up to one year of supervised release. Judge Lemmon scheduled sentencing for October 25, 2018. Four remaining defendants, Andre Staggers, Corey Session, Gregory London, Jr., and Leonard Morrison, are pending for trial on August 6th before Judge Lemmon.
U.S. Attorney Evans praised the conviction as the result of a coordinated effort of federal and state law enforcement authorities within the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program. The DEA’s HIDTA Group #11, operating out of the New Orleans Field Division, includes members of the Louisiana State Police, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, and other local agencies. U.S. Attorney Evans extended his thanks to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol for their assistance in this investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew R. Payne, Brittany L. Reed, and David Howard Sinkman are in charge of the prosecution.