After Indictment Defendant Fled to Mexico: Apprehended in Panama 5 Years Later
SAN FRANCISCO – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced that Marco Hernandez was sentenced today to twelve years in prison for trafficking methamphetamine and laundering funds.
Mr. Hernandez pleaded guilty on July 5, 2005, to one count of methamphetamine trafficking and to three counts of money laundering. According to the plea agreement, Mr. Hernandez admitted that on or about February 5, 1999, he and his associates had possessed approximately 450 grams of methamphetamine in Northern California and intended to distribute that methamphetamine to others. Mr. Hernandez also admitted that on December 3, 1998, he had laundered $50,000 of funds he believed to be the proceeds of illegal narcotics sales.
Mr. Hernandez, 37, and formerly of Windsor, California, was initially indicted, along with twelve of his criminal associates in 1999. In the indictment, a federal grand jury charged him with numerous drug trafficking and money-laundering offenses. On April 7, 1999, the day the indictment became public, Mr. Hernandez fled across the Mexican border to escape arrest. He remained an international fugitive until June 2004, when Panamanian authorities apprehended him and expelled him to the United States to face prosecution.
Mr. Hernandez is the last of thirteen defendants to plead guilty as a result of an extensive joint investigation conducted in 1998 and 1999 by Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement (BNE), and the United States Customs Service (now known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The investigation involved extensive undercover work and numerous wiretap recordings of Mr. Hernandez’s drug-trafficking conversations.
The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel. Judge Patel also sentenced Mr. Hernandez to a five-year period of supervised release that will follow his prison term. The defendant will begin serving his sentence immediately.
Dana R. Wagner and Christopher J. Steskal are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who prosecuted the case.