Jesus Sanchez-Morales, the leader of an extensive drug conspiracy involving multiple state prisons in Georgia, has pleaded guilty, joining sixteen of his conspirators. Sanchez-Morales, who was incarcerated in a Georgia prison, admitted to brokering innumerable drug transactions throughout the Atlanta area from his prison cell using contraband cell phones. He was already serving a sentence for drug trafficking offenses at the time he committed this offense.
“An insidious network of drug trafficking prison inmates has been disrupted by the apprehension and conviction of Sanchez-Morales and his team,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Inmates tempted to use a phone in state or federal prison now know that when they are caught using a cell phone from prison, they will face more time in prison. And when those cell phones are used for the proliferation of lethal drugs in our community, the consequences will be severe.”
Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented, “DEA is fully committed to pursuing criminals who sell drugs, whether they’re selling them on the streets or inside a prison. This high-level drug trafficker was the “ring-leader” who orchestrated a number of drug transactions throughout metropolitan Atlanta while incarcerated. Consequently, his criminal acts landed him even more deserving time in prison. The spirited level of law enforcement cooperation and the subsequent prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office made this investigation a success.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: The case resulted from an extensive DEA investigation involving federal court-authorized wiretaps of multiple contraband prison cell phones. During the course of the investigation, agents learned that a network of prison inmates was using contraband cell phones to broker drug transactions throughout the Atlanta area, including arranging to receive drug shipments from out of state and from Mexico. These prison brokers relied on an organized cadre of lieutenants and footmen outside of prison to store, package and distribute multiple varieties of illegal drugs using drug stash houses. Other members of the organization were responsible for laundering the drug proceeds, including sending multiple low-dollar money wires to Mexico using various money remitters.
The drug trafficking and money laundering organization repeatedly threatened violence to uncooperative members. At least 18 firearms were seized, including firearms containing notches, believed to represent instances where the firearm had been used to take a life. At one point, agents learned of a plot to abduct and murder a member of the conspiracy and successfully averted the plan.
Throughout the conspiracy, Sanchez-Morales was frequently referred to as “Patron,” or boss. Thirty-nine participants in total were indicted as part of this conspiracy and charged with a combination of drug, gun, and money laundering offenses.
During the course of the investigation, agents seized more than 175 kilograms of methamphetamine, 25 gallons of liquid methamphetamine, 12,000 fentanyl pills, as well as kilogram-quantities of fentanyl powder, heroin and marijuana. Agents also dismantled two methamphetamine conversion laboratories and seized $343,000 in cash.
In addition to Sanchez-Morales, the following sixteen defendants have been convicted to date before U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May as part of this case:
- Enrique Rodriguez Govea, a/k/a Gordo, 24, of Atlanta, Georgia, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- Daniel Gonzalez, a/k/a Burro, 28, of Fairburn, Georgia, has been sentenced to five years and four months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
Edgar Ochoa-Martinez, a/k/a Michoacano, 35, of Georgia, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- Rafael Alvarez, a/k/a Rafa, 64, of Montgomery, Alabama, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- Emmanuel DeSantos Nieto, a/k/a Duy, 26, of Union City, Georgia, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- Benjamin Villareal Perez, a/k/a Durango, 42, of Georgia, has been sentenced to 19 years and eight months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- Sentencing for Cristian Hernandez-Lovo, a/k/a Zipote, 28, of Atlanta, Georgia, is set for July 7, 2020.
- August Mario Castillo, 52, of Fairburn, Georgia, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- Leonardo Rosas, 27, of Fairburn, Georgia, has been sentenced to six years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- Shelly Class, 40, of Atlanta, Georgia, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- David Chavez-Ortiz, 49, of Montgomery, Alabama, has been sentenced to four years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- Sentencing for Samantha Fagundes, 24, of Union City, Georgia, is set for June 29, 2020.
- Sentencing for Salvador Valencia-Zavala, 58, an inmate at Dooly State Prison in Unadilla, Georgia, has yet to be set.
- Sentencing for Aszavious Anderson, a/k/a Guapachoso, 43, of Atlanta, Georgia, is set for August 25, 2020.
- Sentencing for Erin Bella Cortez, 32, of Dallas, Georgia, is set for August 5, 2020.
- Sentencing for Allison Daniel, 43, of Covington, Georgia, is set for August 13, 2020.
Sixteen additional defendants have been arraigned and are awaiting trial:
- Juan Torres Chavez, 48, an inmate at Dooly State Prison in Unadilla, Georgia;
- Juan Ramirez, a/k/a Mene, 27, an inmate at Washington State Prison in Davisboro, Georgia;
- Martin Maldonado, 38, an inmate at Washington State Prison in Davisboro, Georgia;
- Joseph Dominic Edwards, 43, of Batesburg, South Carolina;
- Jaime Chavez, a/k/a Nasty, 32, of College Park, Georgia;
- Jordan Bowers, 33, of Red Bank, Tennessee;
- Lilia Martinez Rodriguez, a/k/a Lilly, a/k/a Maria, 58, of Atlanta, Georgia;
- Jesus Molina-Ortiz, a/k/a Oso, 45, of Fairburn, Georgia;
Jamar Tyrone Zanders, 31, of Columbus, Georgia;
- Jason Garcia-Lara, a/k/a Gordo, 24, of Atlanta, Georgia:
- Taurus Basil Stephens, 27, of Vidalia, Georgia;
- Aricus Cantrell Holloway, 36, of Columbus, Georgia;
- Antwonette Jarnez Thomas, 21, of Conyers, Georgia;
- Raheem Jamal Morris, a/k/a Black, 31, of Lithia Springs, Georgia;
- Marvin Gaye Banks, 48, of Cartersville, Georgia;
- Alejandro Vazquez-Lopez, a/k/a Micho, 24, of Mexico.
The following individuals have been charged as part of the drug conspiracy but has not yet been apprehended:
- Eusebio Panigua-Paz, a/k/a Margaro, 50, of Mexico.
- Five other defendants remain at large.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictments only contain charges. The defendants who have not been convicted are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
The Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating these cases. The U.S. Marshals Service, Georgia State Patrol, Atlanta Police Department, Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, South Fulton Police Department, Georgia Department of Corrections, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and Federal Bureau of Investigation are providing valuable assistance during these investigations.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison B. Prout, Erin H. Harris, and Scott McAfee are prosecuting the cases.