Trempealeau County Cocaine Traffickers Sentenced to Federal Prison

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

MADISON, WIS. – Timothy M. O’Shea, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Cristian Andre Vazquez Velez (Vazquez), 23, Independence, Wisconsin, and Michael Carmenatty Justiniano (Carmenatty), 41, Galesville, Wisconsin, were sentenced on December 8, 2022 by U.S. District Judge William M. Conley.  Vazquez, who pleaded guilty on August 30, 2022, was sentenced to 96 months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.  Carmenatty, who pleaded guilty on August 16, 2022, was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

In August 2020, law enforcement received information from multiple sources that several people sold cocaine at a barbershop and taverns in Arcadia, Wisconsin.  As their investigation continued, investigators learned that Mark Castro, Karlett Salazar, Carmenatty, and Vazquez received cocaine from someone in Puerto Rico.  The Puerto Rican source-of-supply shipped half-kilogram quantities of cocaine at a time, via U.S. Mail, and hid the drugs inside radios, printers, or bedsheets.  In exchange for the cocaine, the above Wisconsin-based cocaine traffickers sent money and guns to Puerto Rico.

On May 5, 2021, a special agent from the U.S. Postal Service–Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG) obtained a search warrant for a parcel sent from Puerto Rico to a residence in Winona, Minnesota, which was associated with the group.  Inside the parcel, investigators found 557 grams of cocaine hidden inside a large Bluetooth speaker.

On June 29, 2021, the USPS-OIG agent obtained another search warrant for a parcel sent from Independence, Wisconsin to a residence in Puerto Rico.  Inside the parcel, investigators discovered two Glock semi-automatic handguns. 

On July 13, 2021, the USPS-OIG agent obtained a search warrant for a parcel sent from Puerto Rico to an address in Independence, Wisconsin.  Inside the parcel, investigators found 506 grams of cocaine.  On July 14, 2021, investigators conducted a controlled delivery of the parcel and arrested Salazar and Vazquez, who were inside the residence.

During post-arrest interviews, Salazar, Vazquez, and Castro admitted that the group, including Carmenatty, conspired to distribute cocaine in and around Arcadia. 

Castro pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.  On October 20, 2022, Judge Conley sentenced Castro to 120 months in prison.

In addition, Salazar pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine.  On April 21, 2022, Judge Conley sentenced Salazar to 60 months in prison.

U.S. Attorney O’Shea thanked all of the agencies that participated in the investigation and noted that the case illustrated how partnerships between federal, state, and local law enforcement play an important role in keeping communities safe. 

The USPS-OIG echoed U.S. Attorney O’Shea’s comments.  “These sentencings represent our commitment to work with our law enforcement partners to maintain the integrity and trust in the U.S. Postal Service,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Andre Martin, Central Area Field Office, USPS-OIG.

The charges against all four members of the cocaine trafficking group were the result of an investigation conducted by the following agencies:  USPS-OIG; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation; Trempealeau County Sheriff’s Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Winona County (Minnesota) Sheriff’s Office; Arcadia Police Department; and Independence Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Chadwick M. Elgersma prosecuted this case.