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Leader of cocaine ring sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison

GREENBELT, Md. – Nestor Vladimir Sandoval Roca, aka William Zapatero, 36, a citizen of El Salvador residing in College Park, Md., was sentenced Thursday to 210 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Sandoval Roca was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute powder and crack cocaine, two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and unauthorized reentry of a deported alien after conviction for an aggravated felony. 

Judge Titus enhanced Sandoval's sentence upon finding that Sandoval was a leader of a drug organization and had been previously deported after being convicted of a crime of violence.  Sandoval had previously been deported in 1996, 1998 and 2004, after convictions for battery, theft and illegal reentry of a deported alien.  Sandoval illegally reentered the United States a fourth time prior to July 2009.

According to Sandoval's guilty plea, from July 2009 to August 2010, law enforcement made at least 12 controlled purchases of crack cocaine from Sandoval, the majority of which were in the amount of 62 grams each.  Further investigation revealed the methods and means of Sandoval's supply and distribution network.  Sandoval made at least ten trips to Houston, Texas, during the course of this investigation and received two or more kilograms of cocaine on each occasion.  Sandoval and others converted a portion of the cocaine into crack cocaine.

On May 27, 2010, Sandoval sold an automatic rifle with no serial number to a confidential informant, along with 69.1 grams of crack cocaine.

On Aug. 16, 2010, law enforcement stopped and arrested Sandoval as he traveled from Houston to Maryland, and seized approximately two kilograms of cocaine from his vehicle.  Law enforcement executed a search warrant at Sandoval's home Aug. 17, 2010 and seized a semi-automatic handgun.  Sandoval had previously been convicted of a felony and was prohibited from possessing a gun.

Sandoval was responsible for distributing at least 840 grams of crack cocaine and at least 20 kilograms of powder cocaine.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christen A. Sproule.