Mexican Man Sentenced for Illegal Use of Social Security

Source: United States Attorneys General 7

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – United States Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that LIMBER VAZQUEZ-NUNEZ, a native of Mexico, was sentenced yesterday by United States Judge Carl J. Barbier to one (1) year of probation and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee for illegally using a social security number to qualify for employment, in violation of Title 42, United States Code, Section 408(a)(7)(B).

According to court documents, on March 29, 2022, Homeland Security Investigations received information that certain individuals had used fraudulent Social Security cards in an initial application to obtain employment. Prior to finalizing employment with their prospective company, the individuals had to report to the Gulf Coast Safety Council, which provides safety courses to applicants applying to work with companies that service petrochemical processing plants. On March 30, 2022, VAZQUEZ-NUNEZ arrived at the Gulf Coast Safety Council office in St. Rose, Louisiana to complete the safety course to finalize his employment with Company “A.” On that day, VAZQUEZ-NUNEZ presented a fraudulent United States Social Security card bearing the name and United States Social Security number of a United States citizen, which he represented to be his own in order to obtain employment.

U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of Homeland Security Investigations in investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Jon M. Maestri is in charge of the prosecution.

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Texas Man Indicted for Conspiracy to Distribute Fentanyl

Source: United States Attorneys General 7

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – FERMIN RODRIGUEZ-ORTEGA, age 24, a resident of Dallas, Texas, was charged December 8, 2022, in a two-count indictment by a Federal Grand Jury with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A) and 846, and possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A), announced U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans.

For both counts of the indictment, RODRIGUEZ-ORTEGA faces a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years, up to life imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000,000, at least five years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment, and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee.

U.S. Attorney Evans reiterated that the indictment is merely a charging document and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case was investigated by the United States Homeland Security Investigations and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney J. Benjamin Myers.

Nicaraguan National Indicted for Illegal Re-Entry

Source: United States Attorneys General 7

NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Duane Evans announced today that ALEXANDER JOSUE REYES-RAMIREZ, age 36, was charged on December 8, 2022 in a one-count indictment for illegal reentry of a removed alien in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1326(a).

According to the indictment, ALEXANDER JOSUE REYES-RAMIREZ (“REYES-RAMIREZ”), reentered the United States after he was previously deported on December 18, 2013.  If convicted, REYES-RAMIREZ faces a maximum term of imprisonment of two years, a maximum fine of up to $250,000, a maximum term of supervised release of one year, and a mandatory $100 special assessment fee.

U.S. Evans reiterated that an indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. 

U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement in investigating this matter.  Assistant U. S. Attorney Carter K. D. Guice, Jr. is in charge of the prosecution.

 

Rogers Woman Sentenced to Over 9 Years in Federal Prison for Drug Trafficking

Source: United States Attorneys General 2

FAYETTEVILLE – A Rogers Woman was sentenced today to 110 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine. The Honorable Judge Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Fayetteville.

According to court documents, on December 2, 2021, Arkansas State Probation officers, with the assistance of the Rogers Police Department, conducted an unannounced parole home visit on Geneva Ann Bensley, age 34.

Upon entering the motel room where Bensley was residing, Bensley ran to the back of the room and threw a backpack into a corner. Bensley took responsibility for the backpack. A search of the backpack resulted in officers locating multiple baggies containing suspected methamphetamine, and miscellaneous drug paraphernalia.

The suspected methamphetamine was subsequently sent to the Homeland Security Investigations Crime Laboratory where it tested positive for methamphetamine.

U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes of the Western District of Arkansas made the announcement.

The Arkansas State Probation and Parole Office and the Rogers Police Department investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sydney Butler prosecuted the case.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. Delivers Closing Remarks at the 20th International Anti-Corruption Conference

Source: United States Attorneys General 13

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

We have gathered this week to proclaim our shared commitment to combating corruption across our globe. Indeed, I have shared in that commitment throughout my entire career, whether as a federal prosecutor in New York, as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana in my hometown of New Orleans, and currently as the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.

But you see, I have lived in several cities, and am part of many communities where people believe that corruption is a fact of life. Where some claim that corruption is an inescapable part of their daily lives. That corruption is just something they have to accept, and that it will never change. They have become insensitive to injustice.

I fundamentally reject that notion. The Department of Justice rejects that notion. And I know everyone in this room rejects that notion.

I am honored to be speaking to you all on International Anti-Corruption Day. Today, we seek to highlight the crucial link between anti-corruption and peace, security, and development. Corruption’s corrosive effects are global, with our communities, our people, often bearing the brunt of those effects. Corruption threatens our collective security by weakening democratic processes and empowering corrupt government officials. It stifles sustainable development by diverting funds meant to improve everyday life for folks and harming honest people that are just trying to play by the rules.

The fight against corruption – at home and abroad – is a top priority for the Biden Administration. As the National Security Advisor noted in opening this conference, the White House announced that combating corruption is a core national security interest and released the first-ever “United States Strategy on Countering Corruption.”

The Department of Justice’s efforts to combat global corruption are constantly focused on how we can have the greatest deterrent effect. That is why we have a dedicated group of prosecutors – our Public Integrity Section, along with prosecutors in many of our U.S. Attorney’s Offices – focused on fighting official corruption throughout the United States.

But we have also created specialized groups of prosecutors focused on international corruption that has a nexus to the United States – either because the corrupt schemes originated here, or because those schemes made use of the U.S. financial system, or because kleptocrats have hidden their stolen funds here. A cornerstone of the department’s international anti-corruption efforts are international partnerships without which we could not effectively take on corruption at home and abroad. To our friends and counterparts, represented by so many of the countries present today, many of whom I have had a chance to meet with this week, I say thank you, For your hard work, your dedication, and your cooperation, especially with our Office of International Affairs.

In recent years, for instance, we have coordinated our investigations and prosecutions to fight corruption with – to mention only a few – our colleagues in the United Kingdom, Brazil, Malaysia, Switzerland, Ecuador, France, the Netherlands, Singapore, and South Africa.

This international cooperation has been critical to the work of our Criminal Fraud Section’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – or FCPA – unit, and the Kleptocracy Initiative launched by our Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section. And, in recent months, this cooperation also has been essential to the success of our new Task Force KleptoCapture, focused on Russian illicit finance. 

Just last week, we announced a $315 million criminal resolution with ABB Ltd. ABB bribed a high-ranking official at South Africa’s state-owned energy company to corruptly obtain confidential information and win lucrative contracts.

This was the department’s first coordinated resolution with authorities in South Africa. In addition, our South African partners have brought corruption charges against the government official, as well as their own corporate case against the company. To those who say that corruption is inescapable, our South African partners reject that notion.

As this case demonstrates, the department is committed to growing our relationships with foreign governments to expand our fight against corruption into new industries and new jurisdictions, including those whose enforcement regimes and anti-corruption laws are just emerging. Building these partnerships also creates more seamless and efficient cooperation in our efforts to combat criminality.

Here in the U.S., just over the past year, we have brought charges against, among others:

  • Two former senior officials in Ecuador and Bolivia for alleged bribery-related money laundering;
  • Three businessmen, relating to an alleged bribery and money laundering scheme involving a state-insurance company in Ecuador;
  • Two former Venezuelan prosecutors for allegedly agreeing to receive $1 million in bribes to not prosecute a corrupt contractor; and
  • Two former coal company executives relating to an alleged bribery scheme in Egypt.

To those who claim that corruption is inevitable, our partners reject that notion.

No less striking has been our work in fighting kleptocracy. In the 11 years since it was created, the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section’s Kleptocracy Initiative has repatriated more than $3.4 billion relating to foreign official corruption and associated money laundering affecting the U.S. financial system.

Just a few weeks ago, we announced the repatriation of over $20 million in assets to Nigeria. These assets were stolen by the former Nigerian dictator and his co-conspirators. This brings the total forfeited and returned by the United States in this case to over $330 million. These assets were recovered after the United States filed a civil forfeiture complaint for more than $625 million traceable to money laundering through the United States involving the proceeds of the former dictator’s corruption. Under an agreement between Nigeria, the United States, and the Bailiwick of Jersey, the returned funds will help finance critical infrastructure projects including bridges, highways, and roads, investments that will directly benefit citizens across Nigeria. You say that corruption is unavoidable? Well, my Nigerian sisters and brothers reject it.

But we have not done this alone. In the 1MDB scandal, for instance, billions of dollars were stolen from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund that was ostensibly created to promote the country’s economic development. It took a global coalition – including work by Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom, and many others – to return, and assist in returning, over $1.2 billion to the people of Malaysia. And our work continues. Over and again, our international partners reject corruption as an accepted way of life.

And the strength of those international relationships has been tested like never before, in responding to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Part of our international response has to been to shine the spotlight on the corruption and illicit finance of the oligarchs and the enablers associated with the Russian regime. The G7 Plus Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs Task Force – known as REPO – has frozen or seized tens of billions of sanctioned assets in financial accounts, luxury yachts, and real estate controlled by sanctioned oligarchs, and immobilized hundreds of billions more in Russian Central Bank assets.

And within the United States, Attorney General Garland announced the formation of Task Force KleptoCapture in March.

The Task Force is aggressively pursuing its mission. It has already seized several assets of sanctioned oligarchs and has brought charges against two companies and multiple individuals for the illegal sale and export of military, dual-use technologies to Russia. These successes have required coordination across not just the U.S. Government, but with foreign partners dedicated to combating corruption.

The Department of Justice is also committed to working with our international partners to build international capacity to fight corruption. Our overseas prosecutorial development section – OPDAT – with support from Secretary Blinkin and the State Department’s INL and CT bureaus, posts DOJ prosecutors at our embassies overseas to partner with foreign counterparts to provide case-based advice and mentoring on complex corruption cases. ICITAP — our law enforcement development section — likewise places advisors in partner countries to build the capacity of law enforcement institutions and other government entities to investigate misconduct and corruption.

As a department, we will continue to work tirelessly with our international partners to investigate and prosecute corruption and strengthen the relationships that make those efforts possible. And let me, in this regard, also note – and lift up – the essential work of civil society, investigative journalists, and independent media – which, by their courageous work, so often provide the essential leads for our investigations and subsequent prosecutions.

One of the lessons the successes of our anti-corruption efforts have revealed is that law enforcement is exponentially more effective when we have folks like the people in this room standing alongside us. Fighting corruption will never be an easy road. That’s why we need good people you to stand up and say: enough.

If you’re in this room tonight, or watching virtually, then you are a part of this fight. Your service, your desire to improve the world now and for future generation; your desire to make the world around you even a little more fair, a little more just, is what makes our efforts against corruption in all its forms possible. We must stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and reject the notion, the corrupting idea, that corruption is inevitable.

Leave here, strengthened by the relationships you have built at this conference and empowered by the spirit of this blessed International Anti-Corruption day. Let us proclaim, in one unified voice, from every township, community, city, and nation across this globe, that we will combat and reject corruption, in all its forms. That, my brothers and sisters, is our calling today, and every day. God bless you all.

Thank you for having me.

Jury Convicts Las Vegas Man Of Tax Fraud

Source: United States Attorneys General 9

LAS VEGAS – Yesterday, a federal jury convicted a Las Vegas man for executing a fraudulent tax withholding scheme in an attempt to obtain nearly $1 million in tax refunds through the filing of fraudulent tax returns for himself and his companies.

Following a four-day trial, Anthony Uvari (57) was found guilty of four counts of making and subscribing false tax returns. U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon presided over the trial and scheduled a sentencing hearing for March 8, 2023. For each count of making and subscribing a false tax return, Uvari faces a statutory maximum penalty of three years in prison, a term of supervised release, and a fine.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, between February 2012 and May 2013, Uvari filed (or caused to be filed) four tax returns that falsely claimed six different businesses had paid him or his companies income, but withheld more than $900,000 of income tax on his behalf and paid it to the IRS. The government also presented evidence at trial that the defendant had filed individual income tax returns for 2007-2010 with the same pattern of using false tax withholdings to claim fraudulent tax refunds. As a result, he requested from the IRS over $900,000 in fraudulent income tax refunds. The IRS paid out more than $300,000 in fraudulently obtained refunds before detecting Uvari’s scheme and denying the remaining refund requests.

On his 2011 individual income tax return, Uvari claimed nearly $600,000 in tax withholdings from purported winnings on horse racing wagers from off-track betting organizations, but according to evidence presented at trial, the IRS had no record of these winnings or withholdings. Furthermore, according to testimony of four witnesses at trial, two of the off-track betting organizations were not even in business at the time of the claimed wagers and withholdings, and two others had no records of the bets claimed by the defendant during the relevant time period. Uvari also filed three corporate tax returns on behalf of two shell companies he controlled, claiming hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax withholdings from a Canadian bank. However, a representative of the Canadian bank testified at trial that the bank had not conducted these financial transactions with Uvari or his companies, had not made these payments to Uvari or his companies, and had not withheld this income tax on behalf of Uvari or his companies.

U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson for the District of Nevada and Special Agent in Charge Albert Childress of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.

This case was investigated by IRS-CI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Schmale and Jessica Oliva are prosecuting the case.

Albuquerque trio facing drug, weapons charges after FBI bust

Source: United States Attorneys General 9

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, and Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office, announced today that Jeffrey Alan Chavez and Estevan Antonio Ramirez appeared in federal court facing drug trafficking and firearms charges. They will remain detained pending preliminary and detention hearings scheduled for Dec. 12.

Chavez, 35, of Albuquerque, is charged with possession with intent to distribute 400 grams and more of fentanyl, possession with intent to distribute 50 grams and more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine, conspiracy, being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, being an unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm, and possession of firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Ramirez, 18, of Albuquerque, is charged with possession with intent to distribute alprazolam (Xanax), being an unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm, possession of machineguns, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

A third defendant, Gerardo Rafael “Alex” Lara-Yanez, 24, of Albuquerque, is currently wanted for arrest.

According to criminal complaints filed in court, in October the FBI Violent Gangs Task Force (VGTF) were investigating Chavez for overseeing drug sales from at least three drug houses in southeast Albuquerque. Chavez allegedly employed Lara-Yanez to run one of the drug houses. In November, an FBI undercover employee (UCE) made contact with Chavez and Lara-Yanez, and Chavez allegedly indicated he could supply methamphetamine and fentanyl. The UCE met Chavez and Lara-Yanez at a drug house, where they allegedly provided 141.4 grams of methamphetamine and 550.1 grams of fentanyl pills in exchange for $9,250. During the transaction, Lara-Yanez allegedly handled multiple firearms, including a short-barreled shotgun and multiple pistols.

Later in November, the UCE communicated with Chavez to request a pound of methamphetamine. Chavez allegedly agreed to supply a pound of methamphetamine, as well as additional fentanyl pills because the earlier amount sold had been short. The UCE met Chavez at a local restaurant to complete the transaction. However, Chavez allegedly arrived with the wrong order, instead bringing eight ounces of methamphetamine and 8,000 fentanyl pills. Chavez allegedly sold the methamphetamine and fentanyl pills to the UCE for $2,690.

On Dec. 7, the FBI along with the New Mexico State Police, Albuquerque Police Department, and Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office executed seven federal search warrants. One of the premises searched was an apartment on High Street SE in Albuquerque, where agents located Ramirez in his bedroom. In the bedroom, agents found 1,312 Xanax tablets, two machineguns, 11 full-automatic selector switches, 4 full-automatic drop-in auto sear devices, several high-capacity ammunition magazines, drug packaging materials and $3,000 in U.S. currency.

A complaint is only an allegation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Assistant United States Attorney Paul J. Mysliwiec is prosecuting the case.

Wanted by the FBI: Gerardo Rafael “Alex” Lara-Yanez

Race: Hispanic

Age: 24

Height: 6’1

Weight: 150 pounds

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Black

Tattoos on forearms

Last known address: 8100 block Kathryn Street SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108

Vehicles:

Silver 2009 Audi 4 door, NM 22T-059274

White 2003 lnfini 4 door, NM ARHR09

Caution: Should be considered armed and dangerous

Anyone with information on this suspect’s whereabouts is asked to immediately contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Gerardo Rafael “Alex” Lara-Yanez is charged in a federal criminal complaint with possession with intent to distribute 400 grams and more of fentanyl, possession with intent to distribute 50 grams and more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine, conspiracy, being a felon in possession of a firearm, being an unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm, and possession of firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

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Detroit Street Gang Leader Faces Mandatory Life Sentence Following Convictions at Trial for Racketeering and Murder

Source: United States Attorneys General 8

DETROIT – A federal jury convicted the leader of the “It’s Just Us” (IJU) street gang of racketeering and murder, United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced today. These convictions conclude a two-week trial held in Port Huron before U.S. District Judge Robert H. Cleland.

Ison was joined in the announcement by James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Detroit resident Duane Peterson, 38, was convicted by the jury on all counts of the indictment, including engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, and narcotics trafficking conspiracy involving over one kilogram of heroin. Evidence at trial showed that Peterson led the IJU street gang for years. At its height, IJU membership reached close to 40 members. IJU terrorized the Detroit community from 2014 through the beginning of 2019 by engaging in violent acts—including murder and attempted murder—obstruction of justice, and witness intimidation. IJU also trafficked fentanyl-laced heroin to Jackson, Flint, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.

Eight defendants were charged in the case. Seven previously pleaded guilty; only Peterson proceeded to trial.

“Today’s verdict sends a message to would-be gang members and violent offenders that we will not tolerate acts of violence in our community,” stated United States Attorney Ison. “This verdict is a result of the collaboration between multiple state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies, and it vindicates our efforts to focus on the most dangerous criminals and their organizations.”

“Duane Peterson was a violent, dangerous man who terrorized the Detroit area for years, trafficking drugs, committing murder, and participating in a number of non-fatal shootings,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “The actions of Peterson and his associates had a devastating effect on the safety of the community. This case underscores how the FBI and our law enforcement partners work together to target and dismantle violent gangs using our collective resources.”

Peterson is facing a mandatory life sentence for his convictions.

This case was investigated by various federal and state agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, Detroit Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by AUSAs Eaton Brown and Maggie Smith.

Bridgeport Man Sentenced to 69 Months in Prison for Illegal Gun Possession, Violating Supervised Release

Source: United States Attorneys General 3

Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that CHARLES YOUNG, also known as “Cash,” 36, of Bridgeport, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to 69 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for unlawfully possessing a firearm by a felon, and for violating the conditions of his supervised release that followed a conviction in 2016 for unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

According to court documents and statements made in court, on February 25, 2015, Young was arrested after he had engaged law enforcement officers in a high-speed car chase that began in Bridgeport’s east end, continued on I-95 South and ended when Young crashed into a snowbank after exited the highway in Fairfield.  During the chase, a witness saw Young throw something from his car in the vicinity of Exit 24 in Fairfield.  A search of the area revealed a loaded Glock 22 .40 caliber firearm.  Young pleaded guilty in federal court to possession of a firearm by a felon and, on May 16, 2016, was sentenced by Judge Shea to 50 months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release.  In association with this incident, Young was also sentenced in state court to five years of imprisonment for violating his probation that followed a 2010 conviction for criminal possession of a firearm and possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle.

Young was released from federal prison in July 2019.

On December 28, 2020, Bridgeport Police officers, who were on high alert following the murder of a well-known gang member the day before, were patrolling the area of the PT Barnum housing complex in order to thwart retaliatory criminal activity.  After observing an Audi SUV roll through a stop sign, officers attempted to stop the vehicle.  The SUV sped away, crashed into two cars, and both the driver, Cole Hernandez, and passenger, Charles Young, fled on foot.  Young ran eastbound on Fairfield Avenue where he was apprehended after he attempted to forcibly enter a vehicle that was stopped at a traffic light.

A search of the SUV revealed a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol with an extended and partially loaded 50-round magazine, and 50 glassine envelopes containing fentanyl.  Investigators also found a 9mm semi-automatic pistol with a mounted light and laser attachment and a fully loaded 17-round magazine on the ground next to the passenger door of the SUV.

DNA analysis of the seized firearms connected the .45 caliber pistol to Hernandez and the 9mm pistol to Young.

Young has been detained since his arrest.  On April 27, 2022, he pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon.

Hernandez has been detained since his arrest on May 12, 2021.  On January 12, 2022, he pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon, and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on December 13.

This matter has been investigated by the FBI’s Bridgeport Safe Streets Task Force and the Bridgeport Police Department, with the assistance of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Division of Scientific Services.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian P. Leaming.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime.  Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.  As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

Trempealeau County Cocaine Traffickers Sentenced to Federal Prison

Source: United States Attorneys General 13

MADISON, WIS. – Timothy M. O’Shea, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Cristian Andre Vazquez Velez (Vazquez), 23, Independence, Wisconsin, and Michael Carmenatty Justiniano (Carmenatty), 41, Galesville, Wisconsin, were sentenced on December 8, 2022 by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley.  Vazquez, who pleaded guilty on August 30, 2022, was sentenced to 96 months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.  Carmenatty, who pleaded guilty on August 16, 2022, was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

In August 2020, law enforcement received information from multiple sources that several people sold cocaine at a barbershop and taverns in Arcadia, Wisconsin.  As their investigation continued, investigators learned that Mark Castro, Karlett Salazar, Carmenatty, and Vazquez received cocaine from someone in Puerto Rico.  The Puerto Rican source-of-supply shipped half-kilogram quantities of cocaine at a time, via U.S. Mail, and hid the drugs inside radios, printers, or bedsheets.  In exchange for the cocaine, the above Wisconsin-based cocaine traffickers sent money and guns to Puerto Rico.

On May 5, 2021, a special agent from the U.S. Postal Service–Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG) obtained a search warrant for a parcel sent from Puerto Rico to a residence in Winona, Minnesota, which was associated with the group.  Inside the parcel, investigators found 557 grams of cocaine hidden inside a large Bluetooth speaker.

On June 29, 2021, the USPS-OIG agent obtained another search warrant for a parcel sent from Independence, Wisconsin to a residence in Puerto Rico.  Inside the parcel, investigators discovered two Glock semi-automatic handguns. 

On July 13, 2021, the USPS-OIG agent obtained a search warrant for a parcel sent from Puerto Rico to an address in Independence, Wisconsin.  Inside the parcel, investigators found 506 grams of cocaine.  On July 14, 2021, investigators conducted a controlled delivery of the parcel and arrested Salazar and Vazquez, who were inside the residence.

During post-arrest interviews, Salazar, Vazquez, and Castro admitted that the group, including Carmenatty, conspired to distribute cocaine in and around Arcadia. 

Castro pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.  On October 20, 2022, Judge Conley sentenced Castro to 120 months in prison.

In addition, Salazar pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine.  On April 21, 2022, Judge Conley sentenced Salazar to 60 months in prison.

U.S. Attorney O’Shea thanked all of the agencies that participated in the investigation and noted that the case illustrated how partnerships between federal, state, and local law enforcement play an important role in keeping communities safe. 

The USPS-OIG echoed U.S. Attorney O’Shea’s comments.  “These sentencings represent our commitment to work with our law enforcement partners to maintain the integrity and trust in the U.S. Postal Service,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Andre Martin, Central Area Field Office, USPS-OIG.

The charges against all four members of the cocaine trafficking group were the result of an investigation conducted by the following agencies:  USPS-OIG; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation; Trempealeau County Sheriff’s Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Winona County (Minnesota) Sheriff’s Office; Arcadia Police Department; and Independence Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Chadwick M. Elgersma prosecuted this case.