TAMPA, Fla. – Two individuals from California were each sentenced to more than 20 years in federal prison Friday for their leadership roles in a California-based drug trafficking and money laundering organization. The sentences resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other federal, state and local agencies who participate in the Tampa Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Maria Lourdes Aguilar, 29, and Victor Yanez-Gutierrez, 35, both of Madera, Calif., were sentenced to 27 years in federal prison and 21 years, 10 months in federal prison, respectively. The court also entered a $21 million forfeiture money judgment against Aguilar and Yanez-Gutierrez and ordered them to forfeit five real properties, currency and four vehicles, including a 2007 Bentley and 2008 Mercedes SUV, which were tied to proceeds from the offenses.
According to court documents, Aguilar and Yanez-Gutierrez were leaders and organizers of the California-based Yanez-Gutierrez drug trafficking and money laundering organization. The organization shipped cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana from California to locations throughout the United States, including central Florida, utilizing Federal Express, United Parcel Service and the United States Postal Service. Members of the organization also concealed and shipped the narcotics in automobiles that were placed on car-haulers.
Co-conspirators would retrieve packages of cocaine and distribute the narcotics to lower-level drug distributors in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., and elsewhere. The co-conspirators would then send drug proceeds back to Aguilar and Yanez-Gutierrez in California via money couriers, wire transfers and bank deposits. Aguilar and organization members would subsequently deposit the proceeds into various bank accounts. The co-conspirators would use narcotics proceeds from those bank accounts to purchase items like airline tickets, rental cars and hotel rooms to further the organization's illegal activities.
"This case sends a clear message to drug trafficking organizations," said Sue McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. "You cannot conduct your illegal activities here. We will investigate your organization until we reach the top echelon of leadership, as we did in this case, and those individuals will receive hefty prison sentences for the crimes they committed."
Aguilar and Yanez-Gutierrez were found guilty Feb. 8.