Four Men Convicted In I-96 Cocaine Seizure
The two out-of-state defendants sent to prison for 15 and 30 years.
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Four men have been convicted and two of them already sentenced in connection with the seizure of approximately three kilograms of cocaine and crack cocaine on I-96 in Ingham County, Michigan, Patrick A. Miles, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan announced today. Luis Edwards, the suspected source of the drugs, was sentenced on November 25 to fifteen years and eight months in prison. In August, Israel Mendez, a drug courier, was sentenced to thirty years in prison. The two men who were originally caught with the drugs near Lansing, Gilbert Albarez and Rogelio Ruiz, have now pled guilty and await sentencing.
The drug seizure took place on October 24, 2012, when an Ingham County deputy sheriff stopped a car on I-96 near Lansing, Michigan. Inside the car, the deputy found approximately three kilograms of cocaine and crack cocaine. The occupants of the car, Albarez, age 37, and Ruiz, age 42, both from Lansing, were subsequently indicted in federal court for possession of cocaine and crack cocaine with intent to distribute. Both of them pled guilty to that charge on November 13, 2013.
Investigative efforts by the FBI and the Tri-County Metro Narcotics Unit following the seizure revealed that Albarez and Ruiz had picked up the drugs in Columbus, Ohio, and were transporting them to Lansing when they were stopped. Law enforcement set up a reverse “sting” by arranging to return the drugs to their suspected source. On October 25, 2012, Mendez, from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, came to Lansing to retrieve the drugs and law enforcement promptly arrested him. Mendez was found guilty by a jury in April of possessing with intent to distribute the seized drugs. The Hon. Paul L. Maloney, Chief Judge, sentenced Mendez on August 19 to thirty years in prison based on his extensive criminal history.
Edwards, age 43, the suspected drug supplier, was arrested when he crossed the border from Mexico into the United States near Hidalgo, Texas, on March 22, 2013. He pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute the seized drugs in August, and Chief Judge Maloney sentenced him to 188 months in prison last week. Edwards is also subject to deportation at the conclusion of his sentence.
These convictions were the result of a Drug Task Force investigation in the Lansing, Michigan, area led by the FBI and the Tri-County Metro Narcotics Unit. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bruha.