Career Trafficker Tied to 170 Pounds of Cocaine and $1.5 Million in Illicit Proceeds Sentenced to 20 Years in Federal Prison
AUG 17 (LOS ANGELES) – One of the principal cocaine traffickers associated with an international narcotics ring was sentenced this morning to 20 years in federal prison. Zaid Wakil, 43, of Winston Salem, North Carolina, was sentenced by United States District Judge George H. Wu for his role in acquiring more than 170 pounds of cocaine from Los Angeles-area traffickers with the intent to distribute the drug on the East Coast.
Following a jury trial in February at which he represented himself, Wakil was found guilty of participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy and three counts of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute. Between May and July of 2011, authorities in Arizona seized nearly 70 pounds of cocaine from Wakil during two traffic stops. Additionally, investigators intercepted a 105-pound shipment that Wakil attempted to send to the East Coast via FedEx.
Wakil engaged in “sophisticated means to conceal his activities,” according to prosecutors, who noted that he operated a “shell business” in Santa Clarita – a purported trucking company which he used to conceal his cocaine shipments and to make his drug proceeds appear to be legitimate. In 2010 and 2011, law enforcement in the San Fernando Valley, Ohio and Maryland made three seizures of cash totaling more than $1.5 million from vehicles that Wakil was driving. “[O]n each occasion, a trained narcotics detection canine gave a positive alert on the seized money,” according to the government’s sentencing brief.
Wakil was one of 22 defendants charged in June 2012 with participating in this large-scale conspiracy, which involved a partnership between operatives in Mexico, Canada and the United States. Fourteen of the 22 defendants indicted have been convicted. Two Los Angeles-based leaders of the conspiracy – Ichiro Tomatani-Guzman and Eduardo Olivares – pleaded guilty and received 10-year prison terms. The leader of the Canadian nexus of the conspiracy – John Darrell Krokos – pleaded guilty and received a 138-month prison sentence.
Eight additional defendants remain fugitives. They are:
* Jesus Esteban Felix Leon, 43, of Culiacan, Mexico;
* Jesus Felix Alvarez, 23, of Culiacan, Mexico;
* a man known only as “96”;
* Inocencio Aispuro-Lizarraga, 66, of Mexico;
* Rigoberto Ortega-Guzman, 60, of Downey;
* Fausto Medina, 42, of Lynwood;
* Mauricio Leon-Torres, 41, of Los Angeles; and
* Luis Cazarez-Beltran, 51, of Downey.
This investigation, dubbed Operation Odysseus, was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Pomona Police Department, the Glendale Police Department, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department, and the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force.