FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — On July 1, a Springdale man was sentenced yesterday to 330 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release and ordered to pay $10,000 in fines on one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.
According to a press release, the Honorable Judge Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Fayetteville.
“The increase in violent crime in the Western District of Arkansas is directly tied to dangerous drug traffickers who use firearms in furtherance of their drug distribution,” said United States Attorney Clay Fowlkes. “Our office is determined to reduce violent crime in the Western District of Arkansas by using Project Safe Neighborhoods and OCDETF to target violent drug traffickers with lengthy criminal records. We will continue to work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to identify, investigate, and prosecute these dangerous criminals who distribute drugs in our communities and who use firearms and threaten violence to advance their distribution activities.”
According to court documents, In October 2018, the FBI initiated an investigation into Antonio Hernandez, 36, while he was incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction, Varner Supermax. The investigation revealed that Hernandez was utilizing a contraband cell phone to operate a drug trafficking organization that was distributing “large amounts of methamphetamine” into Northwest Arkansas from the Mexican border.
Hernandez was released from the Department of Correction in September of 2021. On October 18, 2021, while conducting surveillance, detectives with the Fourth Judicial District Drug Task Force saw a known vehicle frequently used by Hernandez leave an apartment complex near his residence.
Detectives confirmed that Hernandez was driving the vehicle. Detectives followed and made contact with Hernandez as he exited the vehicle.
Detectives approached and identified themselves as police. During the contact with Hernandez, he was asked if he had any weapons on his person.
Hernandez advised officers that he had a gun in his waistband. As one of the detectives was removing the firearm, Hernandez stated, “I’ve got something else in my pocket.”
As the detective reached into his pocket to remove some flex-cuffs, Hernandez darted to his left and attempted to flee. He broke free momentarily, but detectives were able to quickly regain control.
Hernandez was detained in handcuffs and officers searched him and his vehicle. During the search, detectives located a backpack containing a box of ammunition and two baggies containing a distribution amount of methamphetamine.
In addition, a second loaded magazine for the firearm Hernandez had on his person was found under the driver’s seat. In a post-Miranda interview, Hernandez advised the detective that he had the firearm “for protection.”
Hernandez was arrested and booked into the Washington County Detention Center. According to court documents, Hernandez continued to operate his drug trafficking organization from the detention center by using the jail’s phone system.
In addition to the firearm, the United States District Court also held Hernandez accountable for the distribution of 30 kilograms of methamphetamine. The Fourth Judicial District Drug Task Force and the FBI investigated the case, and assistant U.S. Attorney David Harris prosecuted the case.
This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.