4 Sentenced to Prison in Drug & Gun Trafficking Scheme

PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA - Martin Ramirez-Rodriguez, 27, Santiago Valdez-Gomez, 25, Florencio Barrios-Hernandez, 26 all of Mexico, and Maria Cifuentes-Espinoza, 35, of Texas were sentenced to prison yesterday afternoon by United States District Judge Richard Smoak for their involvement in a multi-national drug and gun-trafficking operation, announced United States Attorney Pamela C. Marsh, Northern District of Florida.

Martin Ramirez-Rodriguez was sentenced to 572 months’ imprisonment. He was charged with and convicted of conspiracy to export fully automatic AK-47 machine guns from the U.S. to Mexico, conspiracy to possess and transfer machine guns, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, and illegal reentry into the U.S. following deportation.

Santiago Valdez-Gomez was sentenced to 189 months’ imprisonment. He was charged with and convicted of possession of firearms by an illegal alien, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine, and illegal reentry into the U.S. following deportation.

Florencio Barrios-Hernandez was sentenced to 189 months’ imprisonment. He was charged with and convicted of possession of firearms by an illegal alien and conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine.

Maria Cifuentes-Espinoza was sentenced to 46 months’ imprisonment. She was charged with and convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine.

The charges stem from a long-term investigation involving multiple trips by the defendants between Florida, Alabama, and Texas to transport cocaine, methamphetamine, and drug proceeds. During the course of the conspiracy, members of the conspiracy also endeavored to obtain and smuggle to Mexico as many as 800 fully automatic AK-47 machine guns for use in the drug war between rival drug cartels fighting for control of profitable drug routes into the U.S.

“The potential for violence posed by this organization is hard to quantify. This prosecution prevented hundreds of fully automatic firearms from being placed in the hands of those willing to do anything for profit and has saved lives,” said U.S. Attorney Marsh.

“These individuals were involved in a scheme to funnel AK-47 machine guns from Panama City to Mexico, fueling the violent activity associated with gangs and drugs that is taking place across the Southwest border,” said Susan McCormick special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Tampa. “Stopping the flow of drugs, weapons and other contraband across our borders is a national security issue and a top priority for ICE and we will continue to work aggressively with our law enforcement partners to disrupt these kinds of activities.”

Two other defendants, Jose Barajas and Pascual Montor-Torres will be sentenced before Judge Richard Smoak at the U.S. Courthouse in Panama City on November 10, 2010 at 9:45 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., respectively. One defendant, Ramiro Gomez-Gomez, remains a fugitive.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, the Panama City Police Department, the Panama City Beach Police Department, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, and the Dothan Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gayle E. Littleton.


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