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Press Release

Illegal Alien Sentenced to 19 Years in Federal Prison on Cocaine and Firearm Charges

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

Spokane, Washington – Joseph H. Harrington, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Marcos Ramirez-Mercado, 46, of Yakima, Washington, and Michoacán, Mexico, was sentenced today after having pleaded guilty on September 6, 2018, to a conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and the possession of a firearm in furtherance of the conspiracy. Senior United States District Judge William Fremming Nielsen sentenced Ramirez-Mercado to a 19-year term of imprisonment, to be followed by a 10-year term of court supervision following his release from prison. Upon his release from prison Ramirez-Mercado will likely be removed from the United States to his native Mexico and not be permitted to return.

According to information disclosed during the court proceedings, Ramirez-Mercado was the leader and organizer of a years-long, wide-ranging drug conspiracy in which whole kilograms of powder cocaine were secreted in boxes of drywall compound and trafficked from Yakima into Spokane. When law enforcement officers arrested Ramirez-Mercado in his car in June 2017, they found three drywall boxes, each of which contained a kilogram of cocaine, four boxes of .223 ammunition, and almost $2,000 in cash. In a secret room in the basement of his house in Yakima, officers recovered almost $550,000 in cash, eight firearms and ammunition, a kilogram of cocaine, and digital scales.

Prior to Ramirez-Mercado’s arrest, the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a number of lawful wiretaps during the course of the investigation, which began in 2014, and resulted in indictments being brought against Ramirez-Mercado and 21 other defendants. The wiretaps revealed that Ramirez-Mercado’s organization was trafficking huge amounts of cocaine into and across Eastern Washington, in quantities as high as a kilogram every few weeks, for years. Senior Judge Nielsen noted that the amount of cocaine for which Ramirez-Mercado was actually responsible will never truly be known, but it was certainly far much more than the three kilograms recovered from his car.

At Ramirez-Mercado’s sentencing hearing, several of his family members addressed the Court, describing him as a good man who made a mistake. Judge Nielsen, however, concluded that his years of trafficking large quantities of narcotics were much more than a mistake, and that his conduct was consistent with the lifestyle of a drug dealer. As Judge Nielsen noted, Ramirez-Mercado caused his customers to become addicted to cocaine and then held them captive to their addiction so he could continue to make a profit.

Joseph H. Harrington said, “The sentence imposed today reflects the seriousness of Ramirez-Mercado’s grave criminal conduct. I commend the FBI, the Spokane Sheriff’s Department, Spokane Police Department, and Washington Department of Corrections, along with the United States Customs and Border Protection and the Yakima Police Department Safe Streets Task Force. The cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement officers was remarkable. I salute their diligence and tenacity in pursuing the investigation wherever it led.”

Special Agent in Charge Raymond P. Duda of the FBI’s Seattle Field Office, agreed: “The lengthy sentence for Ramirez-Mercado, the leader of this drug trafficking conspiracy, demonstrates the serious consequences for individuals who compromise the safety and wellbeing of communities in Eastern Washington by engaging in illegal drug activity. Those who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of our communities should expect similar consequences. The FBI is particularly thankful for our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, who were integral in this investigation.”

This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) investigation. The OCDETF program provides supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved in the investigation of drug-related crimes. This OCDETF investigation was conducted by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, which includes law enforcement officers with the Spokane Sheriff’s Department, Spokane Police Department, and Washington Department of Corrections. United States Customs and Border Protection and the Yakima Police Department also provided invaluable assistance throughout the investigation. The case was prosecuted by David Herzog, an Assistant United States Attorneys for the Eastern District of Washington.

Updated February 22, 2019

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 17-CR-101-WFN-1