“Operation Ozark Express”: All 15 Drug Traffickers Have Been Sentenced

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The last of 15 individuals were sentenced in the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, on Tuesday, April 2, according to Duane Kees, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.

The defendants, who were part of “Operation Ozark Express,” were sentenced to more than 1,000 months in prison combined for methamphetamine trafficking in Northwest Arkansas, according to Kees.

Of the defendants, eight lived in Arkansas. 

Along with trafficking in Benton and Washington Counties, the ring operated in Arizona, California, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Mexico, according to court records.

The investigation began in mid-2017 through Tuesday’s final sentencing hearing in Fayetteville, according to the release.

On July 24, 2018, a federal grand jury returned indictments against 15 individuals for activities “in a large-scale drug trafficking conspiracy,” per the release.  

The ring would import kilograms of meth from the West Coast and Mexico into Northwest Arkansas for distribution. 

In turn, cars loaded with cash were driven back to Mexico as “meth” payment —  through the Laredo, Texas, border crossing, according to Kees.

Those involved in Operation Ozark Express were arrested by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Fayetteville and Springdale police departments on May 18, 2018.

Defendants from Arkansas:

Eduwijes Cervantes-Mendoza, 58, a citizen of Mexico residing in Springdale was sentenced January 22, 2019, to 210 months in federal prison for Distribution of Methamphetamine. Cervantes was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas in June 2018 and pleaded guilty on September 7, 2018.

Santana Gonzales-Aguirre, 45, a citizen of Mexico residing in Bentonville was sentenced February 6, 2019, to 15 months in federal prison for Conspiracy to Distribute of Methamphetamine. Gonzales was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas in June 2018 and pleaded guilty on September 7, 2018. 

Michael Shannon Howard, 52, of Green Forest, was sentenced February 6, 2019, to 33 months in federal prison for Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance. Howard was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas in June 2018 and pleaded guilty on July 16, 2018. 

John Paul Farias, 39, of Springdale, was sentenced February 6, 2019, to 121 months in federal prison for Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance. Farias was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas in June 2018 and pleaded guilty on September 28, 2018. 

Miguel Saldana, 24, of Boone County, was sentenced April 1, 2019, to 120 months in federal prison for Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance. Saldana was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas in June 2018 and pleaded guilty on September 28, 2018. 

Victor Sanchez-Hernandez, 47, a citizen of Mexico residing in Hindsville, was sentenced February 5, 2019, to 240 months in federal prison for Distribution of a Methamphetamine. Sanchez was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas in June 2018 and pleaded guilty on July 9, 2018. 

Jose Octavio Sanchez, 21, of Hindsville, was sentenced February 5, 2019, to 12 months in federal prison for being an unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm. Sanchez was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas in June 2018 and pleaded guilty on September 28, 2018.

Elizabeth Ramirez, 30, of Springdale, was sentenced February 5, 2019, to 44 months in federal prison for Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine. Ramirez was indicted in the Western District of Arkansas in June 2018 and pleaded guilty on June 25, 2018.

Upon completing their prison sentences, they will be on probation between three to five years.

The other defendants from outside of Arkansas and convicted for similar crimes are: 

Pedro Zambrano, 23, and Alexis Rios-Tamayo, 21, and Sarahi Flores-Quintero, 22, all from Phoenix, Arizona; Gregory Miranda, 23, Ventura, California; Jesus “Don Chuey” Ramirez-Santoyo, 63, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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