One of the leaders of a Mexican cartel connected to a drug and gun trafficking ring was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 20 years in prison, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.
Victor Berrelleza-Verduzco, 24, of Everett, Washington, pleaded guilty in April 2013 to Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances; Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering; Conspiracy to Interfere with Commerce by Robbery; and Conspiracy to Possess Firearms in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime. Berrelleza-Verduzco and his brother Cristian were the leaders of a large Mexico based drug and gun trafficking ring with ties to the violent Beltran-Leyva drug cartel. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik said Berrelleza-Verduzco participated in “dangerous and serious crimes.”
“This case shows how much our community is impacted by the crime and violence spread by international drug cartels,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “I congratulate the dedicated agents and officers who not only intercepted the weapons destined for the cartel leaders, but also moved in to stop drug related violence being planned in our region.”
According to records filed in the case, Victory Berrelleza-Verduzco was involved in both the smuggling of meth and heroin from Mexico into the United States and in efforts to smuggle guns back to Mexico. In one phone call, monitored by law enforcement, Victory Berrelleza-Verduzco discusses obtaining a rifle with a grenade launcher, similar to the weapon in the movie “Scarface.” Victory Berrelleza-Verduzco was involved not only in gun and drug trafficking, but in efforts to use violence to collect drug debts or rip off rival drug trafficking organizations. Timely intervention by law enforcement stopped one home invasion robbery.
“This sentencing illustrates that violent drug smugglers will ultimately pay a high price for their crimes,” said Brad Bench, Special Agent in Charge of ICE HSI in Seattle. “These illegal drugs destroy lives and ruin our communities at home, and illegal weapons smuggled to Mexico add to the cartels’ reign of violence. This defendant seriously compromised the public’s safety and well-being in both countries. By sharing information and resources, HSI and its law enforcement partners have sent a strong message that this type of activity will not be tolerated.”
Victory Berrelleza-Verduzco was arrested at a Utah stash house in April 2012 with more than a kilo of heroin.
In asking for a long prison sentence prosecutors wrote to the court that Victory Berrelleza-Verduzco “was a leading member of a violent drug and weapons trafficking conspiracy, with direct ties to a violent Mexican cartel… during the wire, Defendant’s father was intercepted discussing having just met the leader of the cartel, and Defendant’s brother Cristian was intercepted speaking with another very-highly placed cartel figure…. Victor and his family sent large amounts of cash back to cartel figures in Mexico, and at least attempted to move military-style firearms back to those same figures. Threats of violence were a frequent feature of this organization’s activities.”
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by the ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Lake Stevens Police Department, the Snohomish Police Department, Washington State Patrol, the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force and the Seattle Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vince Lombardi.