You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

Monday, April 9, 2018

Sinaloa Cartel Trafficker Sentenced; Jesus Manuel Salazar-Nunez Sent Tractor-Trailers Packed with Methamphetamine, Cocaine and Heroin into the United States

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Sutton (619) 546-8941


SAN DIEGO – Sinaloa Cartel drug trafficker Jesus Manuel Salazar-Nunez was sentenced to 135 months in prison today and 5 years of supervised release for his role in a drug trafficking cell responsible for shipping methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin from Mexico for importation into San Diego.

According to court records, in 2015, Drug Enforcement Administration agents intercepted the communications of Salazar-Nunez and other high-level Sinaloa Cartel members making arrangements for tractor-trailers to travel from Sinaloa, Mexico to Baja California, Mexico, carrying methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin hidden among canned food and drinks, frozen shrimp and vegetable boxes and other household goods. Once they arrived at a Tijuana warehouse, the narcotics were unloaded, distributed to couriers and smuggled into San Diego, California.

Salazar-Nunez recruited drivers, made arrangements with narcotics customers to use their transportation services, deposited narcotics proceeds into various Mexican bank accounts, and designed items to make it appear that the tractor-trailer loads contained all legitimate items. On September 16, 2015, agents arrested Salazar-Nunez when he flew into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from Guadalajara, Mexico.

On August 14, 2017, the day scheduled for his trial, Salazar-Nunez entered a guilty plea before United States District Court Judge Dana M. Sabraw to an indictment charging him with conspiracy to import methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin into the United States. As part of his guilty plea in the case, Salazar-Nunez admitted to making arrangements for four tractor-trailer shipments. Thanks to the cooperation of United States and Mexican law enforcement, all four of these tractor-trailers were seized in March, April, and August of 2015 in Mexico.

In court today, Judge Sabraw explained that a severe sentence was warranted because of the enormous size and lengthy scope of Salazar-Nunez’s drug trafficking activities. Noting that Salazar-Nunez used his education and professional achievements, as a college educated businessman, to help move hundreds of kilograms of narcotics month after month from Mexico to San Diego, Judge Sabraw said to Salazar-Nunez: “You are not an ordinary defendant….and you need to recognize how wrong it was.”

“Today marks yet another severe blow to the operations of the Sinaloa Cartel,” stated United States Attorney Adam L. Braverman. “The Cartel’s drug trafficking empire continues to be diminished and their power eroded with this prosecution. The dedicated efforts of our law enforcement partners in San Diego and Mexico, who greatly assisted with these seizures, shows our continued commitment to dismantle the Sinaloa Cartel.”

“Our communities might not know Mr. Salazar-Nunez by name, but they are very familiar with living in the aftermath of lives destroyed by drug addiction,” said DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. “Addiction fed by his greed has robbed many San Diegans of their future. The San Diego law enforcement community will continue to keep the pressure on and save lives.”

This case is part of a five-year investigation led by the Southern District of California, that, in total, has resulted in charges against over 125 people and has had a significant impact on the worldwide operations of the Sinaloa Cartel. This investigation has also offered one of the most comprehensive views to date of the inner workings of one of the world’s most prolific, violent and powerful drug cartels. Cartel members and associates were targeted in this massive investigation involving multiple countries, numerous law enforcement agencies around the United States, a number of federal districts and over 250 court-authorized wiretaps in this district alone.

This investigation is also the result of ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

The United States was represented in court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Sutton.

DEFENDANT                                                        Criminal Case No. 15-CR-2380-DMS

Jesus Manuel Salazar-Nunez                                          Age: 35                      Culiacan, Mexico


Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances, in violation of Title 21 U.S.C. §§ 952, 960 and 963. Term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life imprisonment, $10,000,000 fine and 5 years supervised release.


Drug Enforcement Administration

Homeland Security Investigations

Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations

Customs and Border Protection, Office of Border Patrol

United States Marshals Service

Internal Revenue Service

Federal Bureau of Investigation

United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia

Department of Justice, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces

Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations

Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs

San Diego Law Enforcement Coordination Center

Mexico’s Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA)

Mexico’s Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR)


Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
Updated April 9, 2018