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July 12, 2021Newport News, VA, United StatesNarcotics

Ringleader of fentanyl, heroin trafficking network with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel sentenced

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The ringleader behind an extensive drug trafficking ring was sentenced Monday to 33 years in prison for distributing large amounts of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine in Newport News and North Carolina. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and its Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) partners.

According to court documents, Ramiro Ramirez-Barreto, 44, from the Mexican State of Morelos, operated a criminal enterprise with ties to Virginia, North Carolina and California. Ramirez-Barreto was linked to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, as were his drug sources, and his operation supplied cocaine, heroin and fentanyl to numerous drug trafficking organizations in Newport News, Virginia, and in Henderson and Greensboro, North Carolina. According to Ramirez-Barreto, he supplied a North Carolina customer with 60 kilograms of heroin from early 2018 to mid-2019, and drugs to a federal prison inmate, who operated a drug trafficking organization in Henderson, North Carolina, via a bootleg mobile phone.

In addition to his sentence, Ramirez-Barreto was ordered to pay a forfeiture money judgment of $4.2 million and forfeit his house in Lawrenceville.

“This defendant served in a significant leadership role as the regional distributor of heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine for the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most prolific and violent cartels in the world,” said Raj Parekh, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “EDVA will continue working with our law enforcement partners to combat these transnational criminal organizations in order to protect the health and safety of our communities.”

“Through Operation Cookout, HSI and its OCDETF partners took down a major drug trafficking network and removed fatal quantities of cocaine, fentanyl and heroin from communities in both Virginia and North Carolina,” said Raymond Villanueva, special agent in charge of HSI Washington, D.C. “Today, the leader of that network was sentenced to 33 years in prison for his crimes.”

Law enforcement arrested Barreto in 2019 as part of Operation Cookout.

Background on Operation Cookout

In August 2019, over 120 law enforcement officers from 30 law enforcement agencies in Virginia, North Carolina and Texas executed a major operation, known as Operation Cookout, which resulted in 35 defendants being arrested for their respective roles in the conspiracy, along with the seizure of 24 firearms, 30 kilograms of fentanyl, 30 kilograms of heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine, and over $700,000 in cash.

To date, 45 total defendants have been charged in Operation Cookout. All 45 defendants have admitted their criminal conduct and pleaded guilty. Thus far, 41 defendants have been sentenced, with the majority being sentenced to prisons terms ranging from two to ten years, and five defendants sentenced between 15 to 25 years in prison.

These prosecutions are part of an OCDETF investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Raj Parekh, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Raymond Villanueva, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington D.C.; Jarod Forget, special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division; Darrell J. Waldon, acting special agent in charge, Washington, D.C. Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); Colonel Gary T. Settle, superintendent of Virginia State Police; Steve R. Drew, chief of Newport News Police; Mark Talbot, chief of Hampton Police; Col. K.L. Wright, chief of Chesapeake Police; and Anton A. Bell, Hampton commonwealth’s attorney; made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge David J. Novak.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Hudson and Peter G. Osyf and Kevin Hudson and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy E. Cross are prosecuting the case.

The following law enforcement agencies provided significant assistance during the investigation and arrest operation: U.S. Marshals Service, Newport News Sheriff’s Office, Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office, York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Amarillo Police, and Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office. Approximately 30 law enforcement agencies assisted in the arrest operation in Virginia, North Carolina and Texas.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:19-cr-47.

Updated: 07/13/2021