During the seven days of trial, the evidence the government presented included that obtained from a court-authorized wiretap of seven of Ramirez’s telephones, the seizure of approximately $855,716 in cash; nearly nine kilograms (nearly 20 pounds) of cocaine seized in Springfield and Elgin and Houston, Texas; and approximately three kilograms (six pounds) of heroin. That evidence established that Ramirez led a drug organization from 2011 to September 2012 that was responsible for the importation of more than 200 pounds of cocaine from Mexico.
Evidence further established that Ramirez used multiple sources in Texas, Arizona, and Chicago, various couriers to transport the cocaine to central Illinois and then provided the cocaine, valued at more than $3 million, to dealers in central Illinois. Government evidence also established that Ramirez used a house at 76 E. Court Drive, in Decatur, Illionis, as a “stash” house to store and package cocaine and to move drug money.
Sentencing for Ramirez is scheduled for May 21, 2014. Ramirez faces a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of 20 years to life in prison because the government has filed notice that Ramirez has a prior felony drug conviction. Ramirez has remained in law enforcement custody since his arrest in September 2012.
In total, 19 defendants have been charged for their ties to Rameriz and his operation. All the defendants, except three who remain fugitives, have previously entered pleas of guilty for their respective roles in the trafficking network or their relation to it.
Known as Operation Tres Ciudades (Three Cities) the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Springfield Resident Office. Law enforcement agencies participating in this investigation include the FBI, Springfield Division; Decatur Police Department; Springfield Police Department; the Illinois State Police, the Central Illinois Enforcement Group; the Illinois Attorney General’s Office; and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations also provided assistance in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Bass is prosecuting the cases in the Central District of Illinois, Springfield and Urbana Divisions.
“Law enforcement, especially DEA, FBI, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, and the Decatur Police Department, devoted significant resources and tireless work toward this successful prosecution,” said Jim Lewis, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois. “Their hard work and teamwork over the past few years has shut down a major pipeline that pumped volumes of illegal drugs into our community. They truly served the community.”
Special Agent in Charge Jack Riley, DEA, Chicago Division, praised the hard work and dedication of all the law enforcement officers and prosecutors who worked tirelessly to bring this case to a successful conclusion. “The conviction of Eddi Ramirez sends a clear message that the law enforcement community will use every legal means available to bring those who traffic narcotics to justice. Our top priority is dismantling these drug trafficking organizations who peddle their poison in our communities. Our joint efforts in this investigation have made a real impact on the supply of drugs in Central Illinois,” he added.
Decatur Police Chief Todd Walker said, “The conviction of Eddi Ramirez demonstrates yet again the importance and value of local and federal law enforcement authorities working together. I appreciate the work of the investigators and the prosecutor who worked diligently to expose and shut down a major narcotics trafficking organization. This was a complex investigation that transcended state lines into Decatur and Central Illinois. As a result of these efforts, the local drug trade in our region was disrupted and the quality of life improved for those jurisdictions impacted by this substantial drug organization.”
David A. Ford, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Springfield, stated, “The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program was established to mount a comprehensive attack against organized drug trafficking. The guilty verdict in this international drug trafficking case demonstrates the strong working partnership between federal and local law enforcement agencies and shows the effectiveness of working together on the same team. We are committed to pursuing violent drug traffickers in order to keep our neighborhoods safe for our citizens.”
“This successful prosecution has significantly slowed the flow of these illegal drugs into Illinois,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “My office’s investigators will continue to work closely with our federal law enforcement partners to crack down on the drug trade in our communities.”
In addition to Ramirez, defendants charged as a result of, or related to Operation Tres Ciudades (Three Cities), include the following:
- Felipe Quionones, Jr., 33, of Houston, Texas, pled guilty November 15, 2013, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine; sentencing scheduled April 3.
- Juan H. Vorrath, 56, of Houston, Texas, pled guilty June 27, 2013, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine; sentencing scheduled March 5, 2014.
- Gabriel Lopez Saucedo, aka “Cuz,” 28, of Elgin, Illinois, pled guilty July 10, 2013, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine; sentencing scheduled April 4, 2014.
- Leonardo Aldape Hernandez, 24, of Calumet City, Illinois, pled guilty July 10, 2013, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine; was sentenced on January 24, 2014, to 10 years in federal prison.
- Erica Kulak, 25, of Elgin, Illinois, pled guilty February 7, 2013, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, and two counts distribution of cocaine; sentencing April 4, 2014.
- Teravena Kapraun, aka “Tera,” “Jen,” 23, of Decatur, Illinois, pled guilty on May 14, 2013, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine; sentencing scheduled April 4, 2014.
- Jourdan Hullinger, 22, of Springfield, Illinois, pled guilty on December 11, 2013, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine; sentencing scheduled April 30, 2014.
- Doris Morel Del-Rosario, 37, of Houston, Texas, pled guilty May 31, 2013, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, sentencing scheduled April 4, 2014.
- Jose Aguilar Mendez, 22, last known address Decatur, Illinois, is a fugitive.
- Juan Alvarado, 32, last known address Decatur, Illinois, was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, a fugitive.
- Geraro Gamboa, 22, last known address Rantoul, Illinois, was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, a fugitive.
In addition to the defendants charged with Ramirez, another seven defendants charged had ties to Ramirez:
- James Lampley, 56, of Decatur, pled guilty March 13, 2013, to one count each of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to distribute; sentencing scheduled March 4, 2014;
- Guadalupe Onate Herrera, 29, of Calumet City, Illinois, charged with re-entry of a deported alien, pled guilty April 4, 2013; sentenced April 25, 2013, to time served;
- Alex Gardner, 30, of Springfield, Illinois, pled guilty March 13, 2013, to possession with intent to distribute cocaine; sentencing scheduled March 10, 2014;
- Anthony Cunningham, aka “Tone,” 27, of Springfield, Illinois, pled guilty February 28, 2013, to distribution of 28 grams or more of crack cocaine; sentenced September 9, 2013, to 150 months (12 ½ years) in prison;
- Orlandon L. Roberson, 38, of Springfield, Illinois, pled guilty February 28, 2013 to possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of crack cocaine; sentenced August 5, 2013, to 130 months (10 years, 10 months) in federal prison;
- Bernardo Shanklin, 32, of Springfield, pled guilty May 30, 2012, to two counts of distribution of cocaine; one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine; sentenced March 8, 2013, to 108 months (nine years) in federal prison;
- Michael A. Gant, 34, of Springfield; pled guilty May 31, 2012, to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; sentenced October 5, 2012, to 66 months (five-and-a-half years) in federal prison.
At sentencing, the offense of conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine carries a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years to life in prison. If a defendant has one or more prior felony drug convictions, the mandatory minimum penalty is 20 years to life in prison. With two or more prior felony drug convictions, the statutory penalty is life in prison.