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ICE investigation leads to 15-year sentence for Arizona drug smuggler

TUCSON, Ariz. - An Arizona man who previously pleaded guilty to drug smuggling and firearms charges was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday for his involvement in a conspiracy to distribute more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana.

Oscar Perez, 39, of Arivaca, Ariz., appeared before U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson. Perez' conviction followed a long-term investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol.

Court documents show that Perez was the ringleader of a drug trafficking organization that brought marijuana into the United States from Mexico, using backpackers or horses. The marijuana was then taken to property owned by the Perez family for further distribution within the United States. When agents executed search warrants at those properties, they seized numerous firearms.

"Oscar Perez was an established drug smuggler who showed no compunction about involving his family in these illicit activities," said Richard Crocker, deputy special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Tucson. "ICE is committed to targeting, investigating and dismantling the criminal organizations responsible for smuggling narcotics into the United States."

Several members of the Perez family were also charged in connection with the investigation. Perez' father, Adam Perez, 62, of Arivaca, was sentenced yesterday to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Others charged in connection with the scheme include, Oscar Perez' daughter, Jodella Perez, 21; and his wife, Sophia Perez, 24. Sophia Perez is currently serving a sentence of 13 months and 1 day in prison for conspiracy to possess to distribute marijuana. Oscar Perez' sister, Margarita Jones, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and will be sentenced July 18 in Tucson. One final co-defendant, Jim Davis, remains a fugitive.

In pleading guilty, Oscar and Adam Perez agreed to forfeit their interest in property in Arivaca that was used to facilitate the smuggling scheme or was purchased with profits from it.