Authorities have charged 22 suspects who have been accused of operating the elaborate cross-border drug trafficking ring linked to the infamous Sinaloa Cartel (which was previously led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman). It was discovered that the suspects used homes in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California as stash houses to store their illicit merchandise. The homes were in areas including Azusa, Baldwin Park, and El Monte, among others. Following the two-year investigation, authorities uncovered 280 pounds of cocaine, 30 pounds of heroin, 300 pounds of methamphetamine, and nearly $1.3 million in cash.
The 19 – count indictment is the first high-profile case for the LA Strike Force, a multiagency team including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, and the Azusa Police Department. Those who were taken into custody include the lead defendant, Jeuri Limon Elenes of Azusa, his mother, Maria Limon Elenes (accused of acting as a facilitator), Audrey Rose Urrea of Chula Vista, and Froilan Villarreal of El Monte, whose home was used to stash methamphetamine, cocaine, and seven illegal firearms. Of the 22 people charged, 4 have unknown identities and are still at large. They are suspected to be taking refuge in Mexico.
Under California Health and Safety Code Section 11379, it is unlawful to sell, transport, import/export, to give away or otherwise distribute controlled substances. Keep in mind that:
- Transporting, importing, transferring, or selling controlled substances may result in felony sentencing of 3 to 5 years. Transport from one California county to a non-contiguous county can result in an increased sentence of 3 to 9 years of imprisonment.
Under federal law, drug trafficking is prohibited under section 21 U.S.C. § 841. To convict, the federal authorities must prove the following elements of the crime:
- That you manufactured, distributed, or dispensed a controlled substance, or
- Possessed a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense
- You are suspected of trafficking unusually large amounts of a controlled substance and
- You are suspected of illegal drug distribution across state or national borders, and/or
- You are suspected of drug dealing in what is known as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area
Sentencing follows in accordance with the amount of drugs you possessed at the time of the arrest. For instance, if the weight of the substance amounted to at least 50 grams of pure methamphetamine, offenders could face:
- A minimum of 10 years to life in prison (first offense) and /or up to a $10 million dollar fine
- A minimum of 20 years to life in prison for a second offense and/ or up to a $20 million dollar fee
- Life imprisonment without release and/ or a maximum of $20 million dollar fine if you previously had more than two federal drug convictions
- 20 years to life imprisonment if death or serious bodily harm resulted occurs as a result of the use/distribution of the substance
In addition to this, an undocumented person convicted of drug trafficking will face deportation, revocation of any professional state license (teacher, doctor, nurse, attorney, pharmacist, etc.), registration as a drug offender, and disqualification from receiving any state or federal public benefits. This can include educational grants or scholarships.
There are numerous ways in which the sentence can be extended, for instance:
- Being convicted within 1,000 feet of a drug rehab center adds an additional year
- If you are convicted of selling, transporting or distributing drugs unlawfully across 2 or more counties, a person can be sentenced up to nine years in prison
- If the amount of methamphetamine possessed is or exceeds 1 kilogram, can add an additional and consecutive 3-15 years in prison
- If you solicit, hire, encourage, intimidate, or induce a minor to sell or distribute, you can face an additional 9 years in prison
If you or someone you know has been charged with the crime of drug trafficking, contact us 24 hours a day at (310) 448-1529 or visit us online to schedule a consultation. Our office is conveniently located in the Westside Towers in Los Angeles, within minutes of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Westwood, and steps away from the Expo/ Bundy Station. We have flexible hours and weekend appointments, and we will visit you in jail to discuss your case.