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Press Release

California Man Sentenced To 32 Years In Prison For Overseeing Cross-Country Drug Trafficking Organization And The Kidnapping And Murder Of One Of Its Members

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that JOSE RAMON ONTIVEROS, a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico, was sentenced to 32 years in prison by United States District Judge Gregory H. Woods for running a drug trafficking organization that shipped hundreds of kilograms of cocaine across the United States, and arranged for the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Oscar Contreras, a member of the organization, in August 2012.   

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated:  “For years, Jose Ramon Ontiveros ran a drug trafficking organization that flooded New York City with large amounts of cocaine.  When the organization’s operations were threatened by the apparent theft of drug proceeds by one of its workers, Ontiveros and others responded with brutal violence that resulted in the torture and death of Oscar Contreras.  Today’s sentence sends a message that we will aggressively prosecute those who engage in drug trafficking and violence, and we hope the sentence brings a small measure of comfort to Mr. Contreras’s family.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in related court proceedings:

From in or about 2008 through in or about February 2013, ONTIVEROS, 57, oversaw a drug trafficking organization (the “DTO”) based out of California that shipped large amounts of cocaine to New York City and other parts of the East Coast.  The DTO was supplied by the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, and transported the cocaine from California to the East Coast using hidden compartments in tractor trailers.  ONTIVEROS not only oversaw the DTO’s operations in the United States, but also served as the go-between between members of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico and the DTO.  Between 2008 and 2013, the DTO shipped over 450 kilograms of cocaine to the East Coast, and brought back millions of dollars in drug proceeds.

In or about August 2012, the DTO suspected that one of its drivers, Oscar Contreras, had stolen approximately $1 million in drug proceeds from the DTO.  ONTIVEROS and other members of the DTO arranged for Contreras to be kidnapped and tortured by a local street gang (the “Street Gang”) in Ontario, California, in order to locate the missing money.  Contreras was brutally tortured for several days before being killed by members of the Street Gang.

ONTIVEROS previously pled guilty on September 5, 2018, to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms and more of cocaine.  As part of his guilty plea, ONTIVEROS admitted that he and other members of the DTO agreed to kidnap and torture Contreras, and that in the course of being tortured, Contreras was murdered.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Drug Enforcement Administration.  He also thanked the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the Ontario Police Department for their participation and support in this investigation and prosecution.

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jason M. Swergold, Benet Kearney, and Michael Longyear are in charge of the prosecution.

Updated April 5, 2019

Drug Trafficking
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 19-116