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Press Release

Funds Obtained In $4,078,713.00 Forfeiture Case Shared With Local And State Law Enforcement From Tennessee, North Carolina And California

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

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On Aug. 29, 2013, a press conference was held at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Knoxville, Tenn., to present 19 local and state law enforcement agencies with their share of funds forfeited in the case of U.S. v. Francisco Javier Cruz-Ramirez, et. al.

Agencies receiving forfeiture sharing funds in this case include:

Blount County Tennessee Sheriff's Office $ 69,813.93

City of Jacksonville North Carolina Police Department $157,081.34

City of Wilmington North Carolina Police Department $418,883.57

Cumberland County North Carolina Sheriff's Office $244,348.75

Duplin County North Carolina Sheriff's Office $209,441.79

Fayetteville North Carolina Police Department $244,348.75

Tennessee Fifth Judicial District Drug Task Force $ 34,906.97

Knox County Tennessee Sheriff's Office $ 69,813.93

Knoxville Tennessee Police Department $139,627.85

La Verne California Police Department $ 34,906.97

Lenoir City Tennessee Police Department $ 69,813.93

Metro Knoxville Airport Authority Police $ 69,813.93

Monterey Tennessee Police Department $ 34,906.97

North Carolina Department of Public Safety $349,069.64

Oak Ridge Tennessee Police Department $ 69,813.93

Sampson County North Carolina Sheriff Department $279,255.72

Tennessee Bureau Of Investigation $ 69,813.93

Tennessee Department Of Safety $ 69,813.93

Town of Leland North Carolina Police Department $157,081.34

This case involved an investigation of a Mexican drug trafficking organization. Evidence gained through a wiretap investigation led to agents being able to identify and stop a semi-truck being driven by Armando Guzman Villegas and Javier Cruz-Ramirez as it traveled west through the Eastern District of Tennessee on Interstate 40. The subsequent search of the contents of the truck revealed several pallets of shrink wrapped bottled water. One of the shrink wrapped pallets contained approximately $4.1 million in cash, contained in approximately 200 duct taped bundles, with approximately $20,000 in cash in each bundle.

Cruz-Ramirez pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting interstate transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises. He was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Villegas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and to aiding and abetting interstate transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises. He was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.

The court also ordered the forfeiture of $4,078,713.00 in cash.

In addition to the agencies receiving sharing checks, the Drug Enforcement Administration played a significant role in the investigation which led to the subsequent conviction and sentencing of these individuals. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lewen represented the United States. Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Dale assisted with the forfeiture.

The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program is a nationwide law enforcement initiative that removes the tools of crime from criminal organizations, deprives wrongdoers of the proceeds of their crimes, recovers property that may be used to compensate victims, and deters crime. The most important objective of the Program is law enforcement. Equitable sharing further enhances this law enforcement objective by fostering cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Any state or local law enforcement agency that directly participates in an investigation or prosecution that results in a federal forfeiture may request an equitable share of the net proceeds of the forfeiture.

Updated March 18, 2015