TUCSON, Ariz. – Six defendants previously convicted for their involvement in a drug-related shootout in the Arizona desert last May were sentenced Thursday to lengthy terms in federal prison.
Pedro Ojeda-Ramirez, 24, and Ulises Alaim Saijas-Zamorano, 22, both of Mexico, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson to prison terms of 140 months and 60 months, respectively. Both previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, and Ojeda-Ramirez had also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. In addition, four other defendants who previously pleaded guilty to drug and firearm offenses stemming from the incident received prison terms ranging from 60 to 140 months.
The charges stem from a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Border Patrol, and the Tohono O’odham Police Department. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Serra M. Tsethlikai with the District of Arizona.
“This outcome is a testament to the dedicated and collaborative work of our partner law enforcement agencies,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange. “The convictions and sentences should serve as a warning to both smugglers and bajadores alike.”
On May 2, 2016, U.S. Border Patrol agents responded to a 911 call from a man who claimed he had been shot near a known drug-smuggling corridor on the Tohono O’odham reservation. Agents responded to the remote scene and found two men, one of whom had sustained gunshot wounds to his legs. Agents also found 10 bundles of marijuana weighing approximately 224 kilograms, two AK-47-style firearms, a pistol, ammunition, a tactical vest, and a black ski mask.
After determining the two men were bajadores, or bandits, who had stolen the drugs from a rival group of drug traffickers, the agents began searching for members of the other group. That night, agents located Ojeda-Ramirez less than three miles from the scene of the shooting. Ojeda-Ramirez admitted he and others had shot at the bajadores in an effort to retrieve the stolen drugs, but fled after hearing the approaching Border Patrol helicopters. A few days later, a Pinal County Sheriff’s deputy stopped a Ford pickup truck near Arizona City containing 13 men. Investigators determined all 13 occupants were unauthorized aliens and further determined three of the occupants, including Saijas-Zamorano, had been involved in various ways in the robbery and retaliatory shooting.