A Paramount man was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison Wednesday after being convicted as the leader of an international operation to import narcotics into California from Mexico, then ship them to Chicago via Amtrak trains, prosecutors said.
The drug trafficking network that 32-year-old Edgar Roque oversaw transported thousands of kilograms of heroin and cocaine between 2010 and 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois said in a news release.
According to prosecutors, Roque worked with several cartel-level suppliers to obtain the drugs in Mexico and moved them across the border into California himself.
Then, he allegedly mobilized his network of more than a dozen people in California, Illinois and elsewhere to ensure the product was safely transported to places like Chicago and St. Louis. Roque also worked with an Amtrak worker, who helped him evade authorities, officials said.
The operation was able to ship hundreds of packages that each contained at least 3 kilograms of cocaine, and sometimes much more, prosecutors said.
Once the drugs were sold, Roque and his associates would periodically take cash proceeds back west on commercial flights, often carrying $150,000 per person.
“This is criminal conduct of the worst kind,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul H. Tzur wrote in the government’s sentencing memorandum, citing Roque’s lack of “regard for the safety and well-being of addicts and the communities into which he delivered the drugs.”
Federal authorities investigated the crimes over the course of multiple years, and earlier this year Roque pleaded guilty to drug and money laundering charges in a federal courthouse in Chicago.
Another 20 defendants have been charged in connection with the investigation, and nearly half of them have entered guilty pleas, prosecutors said.
• Phillip Zias, also of Paramount, was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years and ten months in prison after being convicted of helping the drugs get delivered and maintaining finances.
• Another Paramount resident, Jorge Luis Ochoa-Canela, was previously sentenced to nine years in prison for helping move hundreds of thousands of dollars of drug income back to suppliers.
• Gerardo Sanchez, of Los Angeles, also assisted with laundering narcotics money and was sentenced to 17 and a half years.
• A Colorado man, Anthony Koon, was sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in delivering heroin with a street value of at least $1 million.
• Amtrak employee Roy. J. Griffin admitted to stealing a package of cocaine at Chicago’s Union Station and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
• Other defendants who have pleaded guilty are still awaiting sentencing, including Paramount resident Richard Roque, Omar Ramirez of Compton and Chicago residents Angelica Cervantes and Juan J. Cervantes.