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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Texas Man Coordinated Cocaine Shipments in Large Scale Drug Trafficking Scheme

ERIE, Pa. – A former resident of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to a charge of violating federal drug laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Raul Gerardo Ruiz Maldonado, 42, pleaded guilty to one count before United States District Judge David S. Cercone.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that from June 2013 through February 2015, Maldonado engaged in a conspiracy with eighteen co-defendants to distribute and possess with intent to distribute between 50 and 150 kilograms of cocaine. According to information provided to the Court, the investigation revealed that an Erie area drug trafficking organization was being sourced primarily cocaine from individuals in Texas associated with organizations in Mexico. The drugs were imported into the United States and were then brought into Houston, Texas. Once in Houston, co-conspirators coordinated the drug loads to be brought into Ohio and Pennsylvania. According to information provided to the Court, the cocaine was transported from Houston, Texas to Erie, Pennsylvania and elsewhere using vehicles rigged with hidden compartments. The Court was advised that Ruiz Maldonado, known as Nariz, became the coordinator of the shipments of cocaine out of Texas to the Erie, Pennsylvania based organization. Members of the conspiracy in Erie would contact Ruiz Maldonado in Texas and place orders for the cocaine. Ruiz Maldonado would then work closely with other co-conspirators to communicate with the organizations’ drug couriers as they traveled to Texas. Ruiz Maldonado and others then arranged for the drug courier vehicle to arrive at the distribution point, to receive the shipments of drug money, and to coordinate loading the kilograms of cocaine into the hidden compartment.

Judge Cercone scheduled sentencing for September 15, 2016 at 10:45 a.m. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of life in prison, a fine of $4,000,000, 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.

Assistant United States Attorney Marshall J. Piccinini is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Pennsylvania State Police, U.S. Border Patrol, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Organized Crime Section, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives and the Arkansas State Police conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Maldonado.

Drug Trafficking
Updated May 19, 2016