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Press Release

Two Convicted And Sentenced In International Marijuana Smuggling Operation

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

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Ricardo Avelar Valdez, 47, of Gainesville, Va. was sentenced today to 87  months in prison, followed by a term of three years of supervised release, for his role in a marijuana smuggling operation based in Northern Virginia. The operation attempted to smuggle several multi-thousand pound loads of marijuana from Mexico to Prince William County, Va. The defendant has also agreed to forfeit $2 million representing the proceeds of his drug trafficking activities as well as two vehicles and drug paraphernalia.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Scot R. Rittenberg, Acting Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge Anthony J. Trenga.

Valdez pleaded guilty on May 9, 2013. According to court documents, between December 2011 and September 2012, HSI special agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers made three significant marijuana seizures at ports of entry in Texas. Each of these shipments was tied to this operation. The marijuana, which was concealed in frozen fruit pulp and furniture parts, was, in each case, being shipped within hidden compartments in commercial tractor trailers to business addresses located in Prince William County. During this investigation, law enforcement in Texas seized approximately 10,000 pounds of marijuana, all of which was being shipped by Valdez and his co-defendants to the Eastern District of Virginia.  

On August 16, 2013, Valdez’s co-defendant, Francisco Cirilio Vargas-Aquino, aka “Francisco C. Vargas,” and “Miguel,” 49, of Manassas, Va. was sentenced by United States District Judge Anthony J. Trenga to 87 months in prison, followed by four years of supervised release for his role in this drug trafficking operation.

This ongoing Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation, dubbed “Operation Buena Vida,” is being led by HSI’s Washington D.C. Field Office, in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Fairfax County Police Department.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary K. Daly and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Eriksen.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at or on
Updated March 18, 2015