Leader of drug trafficking ring given prison sentence - Tucson News Now

Leader of drug trafficking ring given prison sentence

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The leader of a drug trafficking organization that operated out of Phoenix now faces 40 years in prison.

Artemio Pena-Torrecillas, 26, of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, was sentenced on May 30 for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and two counts of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

"Through the efforts of a long-term investigation by federal and local law enforcement, a leader and other members of a drug trafficking organization have been removed from our community," U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo said, "Our neighborhoods are safer as a result of the removal of these drug dealers who possessed firearms to further their illegal enterprise."

Pena-Torrecillas and Cruz Ortega-Ruano, 32, allegedly led a Phoenix-based drug trafficking organization, which distributed pure methamphetamine in pound-quantities between January and April of 2011.

Details were not given as to how the investigation dismantled the DTO and created a five-defendant indictment against the organization's members.

Authorities said Pena-Torrecillas acquired the methamphetamine from a supply source and hired drug couriers to distribute drugs to customers, using vehicles equipped with sophisticated hidden compartments, according to a news release.

Co-defendants, including 28-year-old Gerardo Diarte-Lara, 39-year-old Francisco Torrecillas-Torres and 46-year-old Juan Martin Tapia-Bernal, reportedly acted as stash house operators and couriers for the organization.

Law enforcement seized approximately 12 pounds of methamphetamine, more than $200,000 in narcotics proceeds, 60 firearms including assault rifles and handguns, high capacity firearm magazines, ammunition and vehicles at three separate stash houses operated by the organization.

The co-defendants entered guilty pleas and were sentenced on December 3, 2012.

Diarte-Lara was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison and Torrecillas-Torres faces ten years in prison for their roles as a narcotics couriers. Diarte-Lara was also a narcotics proceeds courier.

Tapia-Bernal was a stash house operator and courier, and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Ortega-Ruano was sentenced to 20 years for coordinating narcotics and narcotics proceeds deliveries.

"Drugs and violence go hand in hand. This deadly combination must be met with combined law enforcement expertise at the local, state, county and federal levels," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman. "DEA is committed to keeping violent drug traffickers off the streets and putting them where they belong: behind bars."

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