POCATELLO, Idaho – Federal officials Wednesday announced the sentencing of three area residents involved in an eastern Idaho drug trafficking ring dismantled as a result of a nine-month Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) probe led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI.
Ricardo Garcia Lopez, 36, of Idaho Falls, was sentenced Wednesday to 235 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 50 grams of methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty last December. On Monday, Alberto Abarca, 23, of Idaho Falls, was sentenced to 130 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty in January. Ana Rosa Valdez-Ceja, 26, of Shelley, was sentenced Tuesday to two years’ probation for money laundering. She also pleaded guilty in January.
According to plea agreements filed in the case, from June 2005 through January 2012, the ring, led by co-defendant and Mexican national Samuel Nevarez-Ayon, conspired to possess and distribute in excess of 50 grams of actual methamphetamine in the Idaho Falls area. Prosecutors say Nevarez-Aylon directed the illegal activities of various co-defendants. Several defendants also laundered drug proceeds; one method included making false loan applications to local banks. Over the course of the conspiracy, investigators believe the ring grossed more than $500,000 in drug proceeds.
Four other co-defendants have already been sentenced this year. The remaining defendants: Nevarez-Ayon, Juan Ortiz, Jr., Everado Tapia-Torres, Jr., Nicholas Levi Olsen, and Isidoro David Herrera, pleaded guilty to related charges and are scheduled to be sentenced later this month. Guadalupe Meraz is a fugitive.
Other OCDETF member agencies, including the Idaho State Police; the sheriff’s departments of Bonneville, Bingham, Fremont and Madison counties; the Idaho Falls and Rexburg police departments; the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were also involved in the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Idaho District.
The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations.