PITTSBURGH, PA – A Mexican citizen living in Tucson, AZ, pleaded guilty in federal court to a violation of the federal narcotics laws, United States Attorney Cindy K. Chung announced today.
Ramon S. Araiza-Vega, 29, formerly of Tucson, AZ, pleaded guilty to an Indictment charging him, and 26 other codefendants, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine before United States District Judge W. Scott Hardy.
In connection with the guilty plea, the Government advised the Court that the prosecution of Araiza-Vega arose out of a two-year investigation into a drug trafficking organization whose members distributed kilograms of cocaine, sourced from Mexico, throughout the United States (in California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere). The Court was advised that co-conspirators obtained kilograms of cocaine in Los Angeles, California, and sent them to the Western District of Pennsylvania (and elsewhere) through the United States Postal Service. In connection with his guilty plea, Araiza-Vega admitted that he transported kilograms of cocaine from Arizona to Los Angeles, CA, which were intended for redistribution. On May 5, 2020, through court authorized Title III wiretaps, federal agents surveilled Araiza-Vega and codefendant Manuel Silvestre in Los Angeles, CA, believing they were going to conduct a drug transaction; a subsequent search by agents led to the seizure of 26 kilograms of cocaine and approximately $185,000 in U.S. currency.
As part his plea, Araiza-Vega admitted that the quantity of cocaine attributable to him, through his conduct and through the conduct of co-conspirators that was reasonably foreseeable to him, was at least 15 kilograms but less than 50 kilograms. The Court was advised that agents seized in excess of 100 kilograms of cocaine during its two-year investigation into the drug trafficking organization, of which Araiza-Vega admitted to being a member.
Judge Hardy scheduled sentencing for October 10, 2022. The law provides for a total sentence of not less than 10 years and not more than life imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Jerome A. Moschetta is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (in Pittsburgh, PA) and the United States Postal Service – Office of Inspector General led the multi-agency investigation that included members of the Drug Enforcement Administration (in Los Angeles, CA; in Tucson, AZ; in New York, NY; in Nashville, TN; at the Special Operations Division; and in Mexico); the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General; the Los Angeles Police Department; the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police; the Allegheny County Police Department; the New Castle Police Department; the Monessen Police Department; and the Pennsylvania State Police.
This prosecution is a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles high-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten communities throughout the United States. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.