Leader Of Charlotte-Area Heroin Distribution Cell Is Sentence To 36 Years In Prison
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Chief U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney sentenced late yesterday the leader of a Charlotte area heroin distribution cell to 432 months in prison, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Jose Ivan Hernandez, 34, of Mexico, was also ordered to serve five years of supervised release after he is released from prison.
Daniel R. Salter, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which oversees the Charlotte District Office, Chief Kerr Putney of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, and Chief Rob Merchant of the Pineville Police Department join U.S. Attorney Rose in making today’s announcement.
According to filed court documents, evidence presented at the defendant’s trial and yesterday’s sentencing hearing, in or about 2013, Hernandez was managing a heroin distribution cell in Charlotte for a drug trafficking organization that imported heroin from Mexico into the United States. Court records show that Hernandez received the drugs in packages shipped from California via U.S. Postal Service and that he was responsible for the trafficking of least 10 kilograms of heroin.
According to trial evidence, as the head of the cell, Hernandez oversaw all aspects of the local drug operation, including the packaging of the heroin into balloons and its distribution, depositing drug proceeds into multiple funnel accounts and wiring the money to various places. As leader of the cell, Hernandez was also responsible for “collecting” on drug debts. For example, when Hernandez did not receive payment for a drug shipment fast enough, he sent the recipient of the heroin multiple threatening texts, warning that, “They are going to mess you up. They have people on the way and they’re going to go for you,” and that “They’re going to your house soon.”
In handing down the lengthy prison term, Judge Whitney said that Hernandez was at a senior point in the drug business, and described his drug trafficking activity as “extensive” and “crossing borders.” Judge Whitney also noted the need to specifically deter Hernandez from future crimes, given his threatening text messages, and the need for general deterrence.
In February 2016, a federal jury found Hernandez guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and one count of money laundering conspiracy. He is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
DEA, CMPD and Pineville PD handled the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth Greene, Kimlani Ford and Taylor Phillips of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte prosecuted the case.