PHOENIX- A federal grand jury in Phoenix returned a four count indictment against Pedro Aviles-Contreras, 34, Luis Nevares-Meneses, 27, and Francisco Sanchez-Torres, 41, all of Mexico, for a violation of Conspiracy to Possess With Intent To Distribute Five or More Kilograms of Cocaine, Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, and Use of a Communication Device. Additionally, Aviles-Contreras and Nevares-Meneses were charged with a count each of Possession With Intent To Distribute Five or More Kilograms of Cocaine.

“The seizure of over 1.8 million dollars strikes a powerful blow to the financial heart of this drug trafficking organization,” Dennis K. Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona stated. “This seizure successfully stops this organization from being able to pay for its money couriers, load drivers, stash houses, load vehicles, access to transportation routes or most importantly–illegal narcotics.”

“For drug traffickers, it’s all about the money,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Elizabeth W. Kempshall. “This seizure has halted the flow of money back to the sources of supply and severely impacted the ability of these traffickers to produce, transport and distribute drugs into our neighborhoods. DEA and our law enforcement partners are working shoulder to shoulder to take apart drug cartels by bankrupting them and putting them behind bars.”

The indictment alleges that all three defendants, using cellular telephones to facilitate their drug trafficking, conspired together and with others to distribute cocaine to customers in the United States. They also conspired to collect narcotics proceeds from their U.S.-based customers to be returned to Mexico. All three men were arrested on November 11, 2010 at a residence in Avondale, Ariz. Agents seized $1,881,190.00 in U.S. currency from the residence during the execution of a federal search warrant at the residence.

A conviction for Conspiracy to Possess With Intent To Distribute Five or More Kilograms of Cocaine carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, a $4,000,000.00 fine or both. In determining an actual sentence, Judge Frederick Martone will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.

An indictment is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Tempe Police Department, Mesa Police Department, Phoenix Police Department, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. The prosecution is being handled by Jonell L. Lucca, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.


RELEASE NUMBER: 2010-249(Aviles-Contreras)

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