Indictment: Pizza Shop Owner Ran Drug Trafficking Operation
TOPEKA, KAN. – A Topeka pizza shop owner and nine other people have been indicted on federal drug trafficking charges, U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said today.
A 35-count indictment unsealed Thursday alleges Adolfo Barragan-Rodriguez, owner of Pronto Pizza at 1121 SE 6th Ave. in Topeka, set up a trafficking organization that obtained methamphetamine from California and distributed it to buyers through a network of street dealers in Topeka.
The indictment alleges:
Barragan-Rodriguez used his restaurant as a front for the drug trafficking organization. Investigators kept conspirators under surveillance as they came and went from Pronto Pizza with packages.
Barragan-Rodriguez, who was known by the conspirators as Big Mike, managed the logistics of buying pounds of methamphetamine in California and shipping the drugs to Topeka, leaving other conspirators to handle street sales to users.
Barragan-Rodriguez used Federal Express as a tool for his trafficking operation. For instance, a 4-pound package of meth and a package containing $14,900 in cash that were transported via Federal Express were seized during the investigation.
Conspirators laundered drug proceeds through transactions at the Prairie Band Pottawattamie Casino north of Topeka.
One of the defendants is charged with unlawful possession of 92 firearms.
Some drugs were stored at a location within 1,000 feet of Mater Dei Catholic School.
Charges in the indictment include conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, interstate transportation in furtherance of drug trafficking, use of a telephone in furtherance of drug trafficking, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine within 1,000 of a school, money laundering and unlawful possession of firearms.
In addition to Barragan-Rodriguez, defendants named in the indictment include:
Michelle Belair, 34, Topeka.
Jose Medina-Benuto, 20, Topeka.
Michael Price, 42, Topeka.
Joseph Jones, 41, Topeka.
Linda Hardin, 48, Topeka.
Heather Hurley, 29, Topeka.
Daniel A. Rice, 57, Topeka.
Nicholas Casarona, 41, Topeka.
Jose Ruiz, 37, Topeka.
Upon conviction, the crimes carry the following penalties (see attached indictment for details):
Counts 1, 10, 11, 30, 32: Not less than 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $10 million.
Counts 7 and 20: Not less than five years and not more than 40 years and a fine up to $5 million.
Counts 4, 6, 9, 13, 18 and 31: Up to 20 years and a fine up to $1 million.
Count 35: Not less than a year and not more than 40 years and a fine up to $2 million.
Count 12: Up to five years and a fine up to $250,000.
Counts 2, 3 and 5: Up to 20 years and a fine of more than $500,000.
Count 8: Up to 10 years and a fine of more than $500,000.
Counts 14-17 and 21-29: Up to four years.
Count 34: Up to 10 years and a fine up to $250,000.
Count 35: Up to 40 years and a fine up to $2 million.
The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Topeka Police Department with assistance from the Shawnee County Sherriff’s Office, the Kansas Highway Patrol, the ATF, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Skip Jacobs is prosecuting.
In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictments merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.