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Eight Major Drug Dealers Found Guilty in Two Trials

U.S. Attorney’s Office December 10, 2010
  • Eastern District of California (916) 554-2700

SACRAMENTO—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today that on Thursday, federal juries returned guilty verdicts, in two separate trials, against eight defendants accused of drug trafficking.

U.S. Attorney Wagner said, “The eight men convicted yesterday will soon be heading to prison for a very long time. Their fate should serve as a clear message: this office will not tolerate violent drug trafficking gangs, and neither will juries consisting of members of our communities.”

U.S. v. Amaro et al.; 2:07-cr-00248-WBS

United States District Judge William B. Shubb presided over the three-month trial of Larry “Paqui” Amaro, 44; Ernest Paul “Powder” Killinger, 33; Gerardo Mora, 34, all of Salinas; and Jason Stewart-Hanson, 37, of San Francisco.

The jury found the four defendants guilty of all 13 counts at trial, including conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and MDMA (or Ecstasy), multiple counts of drug trafficking, and multiple counts of using a communication facility to facilitate drug trafficking. Sentencing is set for February 28, 2011.

This case is the product of an extensive investigation into the Nuestra Familia by the FBI’s Stockton Violent Crime Task Force, the San Joaquin County Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force, the Stockton Police Department, the Salinas Police Department, the Watsonville Police Department, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Assistant United States Attorneys Jason Hitt and William S. Wong are prosecuting the case.

The Nuestra Familia (NF) is a violent Hispanic prison gang based within the California prison system whose members exert control over street-level Norteño gang members engaged in drug trafficking and violent crime. This investigation revealed that NF members and associates were responsible for distributing large amounts of illegal controlled substances, including methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and Ecstasy throughout the Eastern and Northern Districts of California with supply lines from Mexico and distribution channels throughout the United States.

According trial evidence, from April 2004, to June 27, 2007, Amaro, Killinger, Mora, and Stewart-Hanson engaged in a long-term conspiracy to possess and sell cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. They operated under the authority of the Nuestra Familia prison gang. The drug conspiracy was responsible for the transportation and distribution of more than 100 pounds of methamphetamine, 100 kilograms of cocaine, and 200 pounds of marijuana during the three-year period between 2004 and 2007.

During the three-year period, Amaro was the highest-ranking NF member operating on

the streets of California with authority over NF regiments located in San Francisco, Richmond, Oakland, Salinas, Merced, Stockton, and Sacramento. The evidence also demonstrated that in 2006 Amaro oversaw and expanded the NF’s drug empire by establishing an outpost in Salt Lake City.

The jury found the defendants guilty of the following: Mora supervised the transportation of eight kilograms of cocaine from Salinas to Cleveland within a hidden compartment of a Mazda Millennium. Amaro was involvement in the transportation of five kilograms of cocaine seized on April 7, 2007, which was discovered by Kern County Sheriff's deputies within two hidden compartments of a vehicle driven by an NF drug courier. Mora assisted in distributing 20 kilograms of cocaine, that was transported from a major drug supplier in the Los Angeles area. Killinger and Stewart-Hanson distributed three pounds of methamphetamine on May 22, 2007. Valued at $27,200, Killinger supplied the methamphetamine to Stewart-Hanson who then transported it from Sacramento to San Francisco in a vehicle containing a hidden compartment within the center console.

U.S. v. Barraza et al.; 2:08-cr-562-EJG

United States District Judge Edward J.Garcia presided over the trial of Jose Gonzalez Arias 39, Jose Antonio Ojeda Cabada, 57, Victor Manuel Martinez, 41, and Jesus Alphonso Barraza Barraza, 27, all formerly of Stockton. The jury found the four defendants guilty of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin and unlawful use of a communication facility. Additionally, Martinez and Cabada were found guilty of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Stockton Police Department, the San Joaquin County Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force, the California Highway Patrol, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Richard J. Bender and Jill Thomas are prosecuting this case.

During the three-week trial, the evidence showed that between September 2007, and November 2008, the Barraza drug trafficking organization (DTO), working out of various locations in Stockton, transported, possessed, and sold controlled substances in the Stockton and Sacramento areas, and to places outside of California, including Kansas City, Mo. The DTO used hidden compartments in vehicles to transport and store their drugs and cash, including hollowed out radiators, dashboard compartments, and custom “pop out” type electronic compartments. Other seized drug trafficking tools-of-the-trade, included a kilogram press (a hydraulic press used to make cocaine bricks). Law enforcement seized approximately 13 kilograms of cocaine, 210 grams of methamphetamine and 70 grams of crack cocaine. The DTO documented more than $5 million in drug proceeds during 2007 and 2008.

Sentencing is scheduled for February 25, 2011. Each defendant is facing up to life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. Arias is facing a 20-year mandatory minimum and up to life in prison. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

When prosecuted in federal court, drug traffickers typically receive much harsher sentences. In addition to the longer sentences imposed, unlike state court prisoners who are released early on parole, there is no early release on parole in the federal system.

Both cases were part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”). The OCDETF Program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.

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