PITTSBURGH, PA – A former resident of Stockton, California pleaded guilty in federal court to violation of federal narcotics and money laundering laws related to a nine-month Title III wiretap investigation into drug trafficking in and around the counties of Jefferson, Clearfield, and Allegheny, United States Attorney Cindy Chung announced today.
Christian Maldonado, age 34, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possesses with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine as well as one count of conspiracy to launder money before United States District Judge Christy Criswell Wiegand. Maldonado was one of 47 defendants charged in six related indictments as part of the Return to Sender investigation.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Maldonado received over 280 pounds of methamphetamine from suppliers located in California, package it in mail parcels, and provided them to couriers, who shipped them from California and Nevada to Jefferson County, Clearfield County, and Allegheny County. Maldonado also received a large amount of United States currency representing drug proceeds that was used to purchase additional methamphetamine from the Western District of Pennsylvania. Maldonado then transported the remaining drug profits to a co-defendant.
Judge Wiegand scheduled sentencing for Maldonado on Jan. 9, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. The law provides for a sentence of not less than ten years to a maximum of life in prison, a fine not to exceed $10,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
The court ordered that the defendant remain detained pending sentencing.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan D. Lusty and Michael R. Ball are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Drug Enforcement Administration led the multi-agency investigation of this case, which also included the Homeland Security Investigations, United States Postal Service – Office of Inspector General, United States Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Services, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Allegheny County Police, and Pennsylvania State Police. Also assisting were the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, Clearfield County District Attorney’s Office, and the Clarion Borough Police Department.
This prosecution is a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles high-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten communities throughout the United States. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks