Officers seized nearly $500,000 in drug proceeds
Date: February 7, 2020
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An El Paso, Texas, man from whom officers seized nearly $500,000 in illegal drug proceeds pleaded guilty in federal court today to his role in a conspiracy that distributed more than 720 kilograms of cocaine in the metropolitan area.
Otilio Zaragoza-Navarrette pleaded guilty before U.S. Chief District Judge Beth Phillips to participating in the drug-trafficking conspiracy from October 2013 to Nov. 15, 2018. Zaragoza-Navarrette admitted that he was a drug courier for the drug-trafficking organization, transporting cocaine to the Kansas City metropolitan area and transporting illicit drug proceeds from the drug-trafficking organization back to Texas and/or to Mexico.
Co-defendant Jose Luis Armendariz-Rascon, also known as "Uncle" or "Rambo," of Kansas City, Kansas pleaded guilty on Jan. 22, 2020, to his role in the drug-trafficking conspiracy and to money laundering. Armendariz-Rascon admitted that he distributed 360 kilograms of cocaine per year in 2015 and 2016, for a total of 720 kilograms of powder cocaine.
Armendariz-Rascon was in charge of coordinating the transportation of loads of cocaine from the El Paso area to the Kansas City metropolitan area for distribution. Armendariz-Rascon would then coordinate the collection of bulk cash that was sent back to El Paso as payment for the cocaine. Armendariz-Rascon admitted that he coordinated the distribution of 10 to 15 kilograms of cocaine per week.
Zaragoza-Navarrette delivered cocaine to Jose Armendariz-Rascon as well as to co-defendants Miguel Armendariz-Rascon, 31, a citizen of Mexico residing in Olathe, Kansas, and Jesus Salvador Campoy-Estrada, also known as "Chava" and "Chavita," 25, who each have pleaded guilty. Zaragoza-Navarrette hid the cocaine and/or the cash proceeds inside of five-gallon gas cans and anti-freeze jugs on his commercial semi-tractor trailer.
In one instance, law enforcement officers seized nearly $500,000 from Zaragoza-Navarrette. On May 21, 2017, investigators were conducting surveillance at a residence in the 4700 block of North Mulberry Court in Kansas City as Campoy-Estrada was driving a white Chevrolet van with Miguel Armendariz-Rascon in the passenger's seat. Investigators followed the van as it proceeded to the area of Candlewood Suites, 4450 Randolph Road, Kansas City, and pulled onto Corrington Road on the west side of Candlewood Suites. The van parked in front of a diesel tractor-trailer. Campoy-Estrada carried a white plastic jug from the van to the passenger side of the tractor-trailer. Campoy-Estrada then returned to the van with a red plastic gas can and placed the gas can into the rear of the van. Campoy-Estrada and Miguel Armendariz-Rascon then left the area.
Law enforcement officers continued to surveil the tractor-trailer, being driven by Zaragoza-Navarrette, as it left the Candlewood Suites and began to drive northbound on I-35. The Missouri State Highway Patrol conducted a traffic stop of the tractor-trailer at mile marker 68. Troopers searched the vehicle and found a red five-gallon plastic gas can and two white plastic jugs that contained a total of $491,211.
Zaragoza-Navarrette admitted that he personally transported in excess of 50 kilograms of cocaine during his involvement in the conspiracy. Zaragoza-Navarrette admitted that he transported at least five kilograms of cocaine each time he made a delivery to the drug-trafficking organization. A confidential witness met with Zaragoza-Navarrette approximately 18 times. During every meeting with Zaragoza-Navarrette, the confidential witness reported that at least $40,000 to $50,000 would be given to Zaragoza-Navarrette to ship back to Mexico. On a few occasions, approximately $500,000 was provided to Zaragoza-Navarrette.
A confidential source has indicated the drug-trafficking organization purchased cocaine for approximately $27,000 to $27,500 per kilogram. Accordingly, $491,211 in illicit drug proceeds would convert to between 15 and 19 kilograms of powder cocaine.
Zaragoza-Navarrette and Jose Luis Armendariz-Rascon are among nine defendants who have pleaded guilty in this case.
Under federal statutes, Zaragoza-Navarrette is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of 40 years in federal prison without parole. Jose Armendariz-Rascon is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Alford and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Smith. It was investigated by the IRS-Criminal Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, and the Lee's Summit, Mo., Police Department.