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Press Release

Head of Utah Heroin, Meth Distribution Organization Sentenced to 144 Months in Federal Prison

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

SALT LAKE CITY – Lorenzo Verduzco-Benitez, age 28, of West Jordan, Utah, head of a drug organization which sold heroin and methamphetamine in Utah, will serve 144 months in federal prison. U.S. District Court Judge Jill N. Parrish imposed the sentenced Thursday afternoon.

Verduzco-Benitez, a citizen of Mexico, pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He admitted that between July 1, 2014, and March 6, 2015, he was the head of a narcotics organization operating in Utah. He admitted that during this time he distributed approximately 10.5 kilograms of heroin and 10.7 kilograms of methamphetamine in Utah.  He admitted using surrogates to deposit drug proceeds into nominee bank accounts to pay his suppliers, allowing him to conceal and disguise the nature, source, and ownership of the drug proceeds. He also admitted that he reinvested drug proceeds into the drug distribution business to ensure its ongoing success.

According to a documents filed in court, DEA started an investigation of the drug trafficking organization in July 2014 after a confidential source provided information to them that law enforcement officers were able to independently corroborate.  Evidence showed Verduzco-Benitez resupplied numerous subordinate dealers in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Michigan.  As a part of the investigation, agents intercepted significant loads of drugs on several occasions and conducted many controlled drug purchases from the Verduzco organization.

Verduzco-Benitez and five others drug distribution conspiracy were charged in a sealed indictment returned by a federal grand jury in March 2015. Ernesto Vega, age 29, of West Jordan pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit money laundering and was sentenced to 72 months in federal prison. Jorge Aquino Andrade, age 44, of Salt Lake City pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin and money laundering and is scheduled to be sentenced March 1. His plea agreement includes a stipulated sentence of 60 months. Miquel Escobedo-Mendoza, age 24, of West Valley City, pleaded guilty to possession of heroin with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.  He was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison. Melissa Cervantes, age 24, of Salt Lake City pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and was sentenced to a year in federal prison.  Elvira Damian, age 50, of West Jordan, is a fugitive. Several of the defendants are citizens of Mexico and will be referred to ICE for deportation proceedings when they finish their prison sentences.

As a part of his plea agreement, Verduzco-Benitez agreed to forfeit $11,231 in cash and a Cobra Enterprise .380 semi-automatic handgun.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City and investigated by the DEA, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the Davis Metro Narcotics Strike Force.

Updated February 26, 2016

Drug Trafficking