Sioux Falls Woman Sentenced for Her Role in Fentanyl and Meth Conspiracy, While Co-Conspirators Await Sentencing
SIOUX FALLS - United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced today that U.S. District Judge Charles B. Kornmann has sentenced an El Salvador man and a Victorville, California, woman convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance and Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance. The sentencings took place on November 13, 2023, in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
Edwin Giovanni Salinas, age 44, was sentenced to life in prison. He was ordered to pay $200 as a statutorily required special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.
Berta Rosmelvi Gonzales, age 33, was sentenced to three years and five months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. She was ordered to pay $100 as a statutorily required special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.
Salinas and Gonzales were indicted for Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance and Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance by a federal grand jury in May of 2023. Gonzales pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance on July 10, 2023. On July 19, 2023, Salinas was found guilty at trial of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance and Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance.
According to evidence admitted at trial, on November 26, 2022, Salinas and Gonzales were pulled over during a traffic stop. During a search of the vehicle, approximately 16 pounds of fentanyl was found. The fentanyl was contained in 12 packages – two containing powder weighing 3.5 pounds and another 10 containing approximately 50,000 pills. The 10 separate packages contained small blue pills marked “M” on one side and “30” on the other, apparent counterfeit “M-30” pills containing fentanyl. The fentanyl was mixed with a horse tranquilizer. The approximate street value of the drugs was estimated at $2,000,000.
“Fentanyl is the deadliest drug our communities have ever faced,” said Alison J. Ramsdell, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota. “It is almost fifty times more potent than heroin, and just two milligrams - an amount that can fit on the tip of a pencil - is enough to kill an average adult. So when this defendant trafficked more than 50,000 fentanyl pills and 3.5 pounds of fentanyl powder into our state, he brought enough poison to wipe out the entire population of South Dakota. It is therefore paramount that we continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute the trafficking of fentanyl, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to doing so alongside our federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners.”
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), one kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people. Laboratory testing indicates seven out of every 10 fentanyl pills seized by the DEA contained a lethal dose of fentanyl.
During the sentencing of Salinas, the Court stated that his conduct was “reprehensible,” citing the lethality of the controlled substances and the likely intended location of where a portion of the fentanyl was headed – tribal lands. The Court noted that this case involved the largest ever fentanyl seizure and prosecution in the state.
This case was investigated by the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Sioux’s Law Enforcement, Roberts County Sheriff’s Department, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeremy R. Jehangiri and Paige Petersen prosecuted the case.
Salinas and Gonzales were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service to continue serving their sentences.