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Rhode Island man seeking to buy cocaine worth $1 million is sentenced in federal court

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A Providence man who admitted to setting up a deal to purchase $1 million worth of cocaine from an FBI undercover agent in August 2008 was sentenced Wednesday to 121 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. The case was investigated cooperatively with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jose J. Astacio, 49, pleaded guilty in August 2010 before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and attempt to possess with the intent to distribute more than 5 kilos of cocaine.

At the defendant's change of plea hearing, the government presented information to the court that Astacio met several times with an undercover FBI agent and two cooperating witnesses, indicating that he had $1 million available for the purchase of large quantities of cocaine. He indicated that if the purchase went well he had additional sums of money for subsequent purchases. The parties agreed that the initial sale of cocaine to the defendant would be fifty kilograms.

On Aug. 17, 2008, Astacio arranged to meet a cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent in Warwick, R.I., to deliver half of the cash for the transaction. Astacio claimed a second associate had the other half of the money, but that he would take delivery of the drugs and then return with the rest of the money.

Astacio followed a cooperating witness and an undercover law enforcement officer to a second location where agents had placed over 50 kilos of cocaine. After the defendant had completed the inspection of the cocaine and wiped his fingerprints from the packages, he activated a hidden compartment in the rear of his vehicle and began loading the cocaine into the compartment. As Astacio was loading the drugs into the compartment he was arrested, and agents seized $499,470 in cash that had been provided for the drugs.

This case was investigated by the FBI, Rhode Island State Police, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Task Force including: ATF, ICE HSI, Providence Police Department, Pawtucket Police Department, Warwick Police Department, Central Falls Police Department, Narragansett Police Department and the Boston Police Department.

The sentencing was announced by U. S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha.