Two men are set to be sentenced today in federal court in Charlottesville for their role in a drug-trafficking pipeline that funneled Mexican methamphetamine into Southwood Mobile Home Park, according to officials.
From Southwood, the meth was parceled out for sale as far away as Lexington, according to Brian McGinn of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia.
Charlottesville itself wasn’t a major market for the drug, said city police Lt. Don Campbell, who heads the local narcotics task force. Rather, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Healey, the trailer park was used as a distribution hub.
At the head of the local ring, authorities contend, was Esteban Salmeron-Duque, also known as El Pis or Primo. In court documents, authorities describe a group that moved pounds of methamphetamine north from Atlanta.
Confidential witnesses have told police that at least as early as December 2009 dealers were making the trips to Georgia.
But in January, South Carolina authorities caught a load in Greenville, S.C. Three men were in a Lincoln Navigator when they were caught with about two pounds of methamphetamine, according to court documents.
Two confidential informants told police that after the South Carolina arrest, the dealers switched their route, transporting the drugs through Greensboro, N.C., Winston-Salem, N.C., and Richmond, according to court documents.
More than once, dealers rendezvoused at Mexican restaurants, and at least once the drug was moved while packed into shipments of garlic and coffee, court records show.
Excessive cutting of the drug was sometimes a source of conflict among the dealers, Campbell said.
During one sale, dealer Miguel Angel del Angel Espindola offered a money-back guarantee, an informant told police, court documents show.
“Espindola told [a wholesale customer] that if there were any problems with the methamphetamine to call [the person selling the drug] and they would give better methamphetamine or return the money,” reads an affidavit seeking charges against Espindola.
The meth coming in from Mexico is cooked in labs there, and is quite pure to start with, according to Campbell.
“It’s not the cheap biker-type meth or the meth that people cook locally,” he said.
Even people relatively low in the now-dismantled organization were selling relatively large quantities of the drug, Campbell said.
Campbell described the local operation as being led by Salmeron-Duque, with a more loosely organized group below him.
“They said that they were the main source for meth [in Central Virginia] at that time,” Campbell said.
Many of the dealers are illegal immigrants, and will eventually be deported, according to McGinn.
» Salmeron-Duque was indicted on charges of conspiring to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamines and pleaded guilty to the charge June 13. He is scheduled to be sentenced in September.
» Alvaro Heredia-Luna pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine and possession with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine and was sentenced earlier this month to three years and four months in prison.
» Tomas Jaimes-Campos pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine and was sentenced in January to 13 ½ years in prison.
» Sabrina R. Coles was indicted in February 2010 on one count of possessing with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine. She pleaded guilty that May and was sentenced that July to 10 years in prison.
» Espindola pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine, four counts of distributing 5 or more grams of methamphetamine and one count of distribution of a detectable amount of methamphetamine.
» Darlin Antonio Rodriguez Recinos pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine.
» Israel Espinoza-Chavez pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to distribute of 500 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine, court documents show.
» Cynthia Dawn Haldane was charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, according to court documents. She pleaded guilty in June 2010.