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Press Release

Arizona Man Pleads Guilty to Drug Trafficking Charge

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

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Manuel Montes Espinoza, 37, of Tucson, Arizona, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, marijuana. The charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years, a fine of $5,000,000 or both.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Moynihan, who is handling the case, stated Espinoza, who also went by the name “Nero,” was involved in a marijuana trafficking conspiracy which began operations in March of 2007 and continued through April of 2010.  During that time frame, the members of the conspiracy shipped hundreds of pounds of marijuana from Tucson, Arizona, to Cleveland, Ohio, Port Chester, NY, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Rochester, NY. The organization acquired marijuana from suppliers in Mexico. Espinoza, who is from Mexico and lived in the Tucson area during some of the time frame of the conspiracy, was responsible for acquiring marijuana from sources in Mexico and selling it to other members of the conspiracy who shipped it to the Northeast.   

At the May 2014 trial of co-defendant, Raul Eduardo Rivera de la Torre, a government witness, who was involved in the conspiracy, testified that he would purchase marijuana from Espinoza, as well as others, and would be assisted by de la Torre, who would translate for Espinoza, who spoke Spanish, and the witness, who spoke English. The witness testified that he would utilize various shipping companies to transport marijuana packaged in boxes to various locations in Rochester. He then detailed that he later utilized over-land trucking companies to deliver crates full of marijuana to various locations in the Northeastern United States. Another government witness detailed how he was responsible for receiving the shipments of marijuana in Rochester and that he would distribute the marijuana once it arrived.

The conviction is the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of James J. Hunt, Acting Special Agent in Charge, New York Field Division.

Sentencing is scheduled for January 7, 2014, at 3:30 p.m. before Judge Geraci.
Updated November 19, 2014