Marijuana traffickers sentenced: Load of 'vegetables' concealed 1,600 pounds

Approximate street value of the marijuana seized is $3.1 million

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. –- Three men who planned to use a Gainesville warehouse to unload their vegetables and marijuana were sentenced today by Senior United States District Judge William C. O’Kelley.

Marco Ortiz-Barajas, 19, Angel Zamudio-Martinez, 54, Jose Luis Chavez-Morfin, 43, all of whom are from Mexico but resided in the Atlanta metropolitan area, were convicted upon their pleas of guilty on June 29, 2012, to a charge of conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute.

“Today’s sentences are a reminder that drug trafficking carries with it serious consequences and that no community is immune from its presence or its potentially destructive effects,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.

Chavez-Morfin was sentenced to 5 years, 10 months in prison to be followed by 5 years of supervised release. Zamudio-Martinez was sentenced to 4 years, 2 months in prison, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release. Ortiz-Barajas was sentenced to 3 years in prison, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release. Each defendant will be deported to Mexico at the end of his sentence.

“This case demonstrates that Atlanta and its surrounding environs continue to serve as a hub for the distribution of marijuana and other drugs smuggled into the United States from Mexico,” said Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Atlanta. “HSI will continue to work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to target the organizations responsible for drug trafficking in Georgia and to send a strong message that their criminal activity will not be tolerated here.”

According to Yates, the charges and other information presented in court, during the course of an undercover investigation, Homeland Security Investigations learned that Marco Ortiz-Barajas, Angel Zamudio-Martinez, and Jose Luis Chavez-Morfin were planning to unload a shipment of marijuana at a Gainesville warehouse.

As soon as the tractor trailer arrived at the warehouse, law enforcement executed a search warrant. Under the cilantro, peppers, and other green vegetables, law enforcement located and seized 1,572 pounds of marijuana. The approximate street value of the marijuana seized is $3,144,000.