CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX: (716) 551-3051
BUFFALO, N.Y.-Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Jose Manuel Lua Guizar, 27, of California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, five kilograms or more or cocaine, and money laundering conspiracy before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life and a $10,000,000 fine. In addition, co-defendant Bryant Hudson, 37, of Tonawanda, NY, who was convicted of structuring transactions, was sentenced to 33 months in prison by Judge Wolford.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Adler, who is handling the case, stated that between February 2014, and April 2015, the defendant obtained multiple kilograms of cocaine to distribute in cities including Buffalo, and Chicago, IL. Guizar received Fed-Ex packages, which typically contained two kilograms of cocaine. The packages were addressed to his name or the name of a co-conspirator. The defendant would then sell the cocaine to local area drug traffickers.
In August 2014, the defendant was detained in the Minneapolis Airport with a co-defendant on their way to Chicago after the two had been in Buffalo just days prior. During this detention, a drug ledger was seized along with over $12,000 in U.S. currency, which were the proceeds of drug sales. Most of the drug proceeds were sent back to California by structured deposits under the $10,000 reporting requirement in Bank of America accounts. The defendant made over 40 structured deposits (mostly amounts of $9,900) in Buffalo alone. Guizar traveled, sometimes with co-defendant Hudson, to various Bank of America branches to make these deposits. Surveillance footage shows the defendant making such deposits. Hudson assisted in the depositing of drug proceeds in accounts at Bank of America branches in the Buffalo area in order to move the proceeds from Buffalo to California and avoid detection.
Guizar and his co-conspirators accounted for over $1,000,000 in structured deposits in Buffalo, and over $10,000,000 in structured deposits nationwide during this timeframe. A ledger for structured deposits was recovered from a stash house in California. This ledger listed deposits made into various accounts. In that stash house, law enforcement recovered Fed-Ex packaging materials, 21 kilograms of cocaine, and three kilograms of heroin. Law enforcement also recovered multiple kilograms of cocaine and heroin from packages that were supposed to be shipped to co-conspirators of the defendant.
A total of nine defendants have been indicted in this sophisticated drug trafficking organization with ties to a Mexican drug cartel operating out of the Los Angeles, California area. The organization shipped drugs to various states including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Colorado, and Ohio. To date, two defendants have been convicted. Charges are pending against the remaining defendants. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Today’s plea and sentencing are the culmination of an investigation on the part of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division; Immigration and Custom Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations Division, under the direction of James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office. Additional assistance was provided by ICE-HSI in Los Angeles, California.
Guizar’s sentencing is scheduled for December 12, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. before Judge Wolford.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Western District of New York