BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) -- The Department of Justice announced on Thursday (May 25) the sentencing of a man who was organizing drug trafficking in Northwest Arkansas using a contraband cell phone from a prison in California.
Larry Jesus Navarete, 35, of Los Angeles was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
This investigation also led to the indictment of 18 other people in the Western District of Arkansas and took 25 pounds of meth off of the streets.
A local law enforcement officers with the DEA drug task force began investigating a methamphetamine trafficking operation in Springdale and Rogers in 2015, according to court records.
Officers purchased seven grams of meth from local distributor Sebastian Garcia-Mojica. A search of his apartment revealed boxes had been shipped from an address in Los Angeles associated with Gaudalupe Duran. The boxes contained disfigured stuffed animals addressed to Esmeralda Quintana.
Officers traveled to Quintana's residence where Francisco Martinez-Guzman consented to the search of the residence. They found one pound of meth and wire receipts that showed Quintana had wired Duran $1,000. A package was later intercepted and contained two pounds of methamphetamine.
Guzman was sentenced to 120 months in prison, Duran sentenced to 72 months, Quintana sentenced to 48 months and Mojica was sentenced to 41 months.
After the arrest, information was received that Jaime Monge was distributing meth that he was receiving from the same source in California. After controlled purchases of meth from Mange, officers intercepted communications between Monge and Navarete. The investigation showed that Navarete was in prison in California and communicating with Monge using a contraband cell phone. Monge was convicted and sentenced to 120 months in prison.
Law enforcement officers in Arkansas coordinated their investigation with an ongoing investigation by the FBI, DEA and law enforcement in California of MS-13 activities throughout the United States. After investigation, it was determined that Navarete was a memebr of the MS-13 and a leader of a clique within the group.
MS-13 is a transnational gang involved in drug trafficking and violence, the report states. It was discovered that Navarete's role was as a leader who arranged and directed shipments of meth to co-conspirators in Northwest Arkansas and other locations throughout the United States.
The Arkansas investigation resulted in discovering more than 25 pounds of meth and the indictment of Navarete and 18 other individuals in the Arkansas and several individuals in Oklahoma.
In addition to the names above, the investigation resulted in the indictment and conviction in Arkansas of Alejandro Zambrano-Trujillo, Jonas Aguirre-Zelada, Danny Orellana-Pindeda, Anotnia Orellana-Pineda, Rigoberto Benavidez, Jose Lepe, Cinthia Banags-Ruiz, Amanda Olse, Corina Zepeda-Patino, Hado Zepeda-Garcia, Rosalio Lared-Garcia, Carlos Sandoval-Batres and Mario De Jesus Montoya-Perlera/
"This investigation resulted in the dismantling of a significant drug trafficking organization with ties to MS-13 operating in Arkansas and Oklahoma," said Kenneth Elser, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. "This case is a model fro law enforcement cooperation and would not have been possible without countless hours of work put in by local and federal law enforcement and by Assistant United States Attorney Kim Harris. Their dedication to the mission of the Department of Justice has been tremendous and their determination to work together has ultimately made the Western District of Arkansas a safer place."
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Rogers Police Department, the Springdale Police Department, the Fayetteville Police Department, the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the Benton County Sheriff's Office.