Mexican National Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison for Cocaine Smuggling

Defendant had been extradited from Mexico to stand trial

TUCSON, Ariz. – Francisco Valle-Hurtado, 38, of Naco, Sonora, Mexico, extradited to the U.S. in May 2006 to face trial for cocaine charges related to the Naco, Ariz. drug tunnel, was sentenced here today by U.S. District Chief Judge John M. Roll to 25 years in prison. Over 20 tons of cocaine had been smuggled through the tunnel from its inception in 1996 until May1999 when the tunnel was discovered.

Valle-Hurtado and Ruben Ultreras-Estrada, 38, also of Naco, were convicted in November 2007 of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 17,715 pounds of cocaine. Valle-Hurtado was also convicted of possessing a machine gun while committing the cocaine violations. It was his job to guard the cocaine loads with a machine gun after the loads had passed through the tunnel.

The investigation began after the seizure of 5.6 tons of cocaine from a warehouse in Tucson in December 1996. During the course of the investigation an additional 2660 pounds of cocaine, three fully automatic machine guns and 1.5 million in cash were seized. Over fifty people connected to the Naco tunnel have been convicted; five remain at large. Ultreras-Estrada will be sentenced on June 30, 2008 before Chief Judge Roll.

The investigation leading to the conviction was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The prosecution was handled by James T. Lacey, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.

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