A San Bernardino man who authorities say was at the center of a prison drug smuggling scheme has been sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Carlos Antonio Aznaran, 29, was identified as the “central figure” in three conspiracies in which associates of a San Bernardino gang deliberately got themselves arrested so they could smuggle drugs and syringes hidden in their body cavities into local jails.
Aznaran was sentenced on Monday, one year after he pleaded guilty to two felony drug charges and five counts of international money laundering. He’s been in federal custody since his April 2019 arrest.
According to the United States Department of Justice, the gang smuggled narcotics throughout the San Bernardino County jail system through at least July 2017 to April 2019.
Aznaran, according to the DOJ, contacted drug suppliers and helped organize the smuggling operation by identifying people who were willing to be arrested in order to sneak the drugs into the jails.
In at least four known smuggling attempts, law enforcement officers managed to intercept about 121 grams of methamphetamine, 86 grams of heroin and at least 10 syringes, court documents state.
Aznaran was also identified as the primary link between the Mexican drug supplier and the street level dealers who sold and distributed the product.
“He was responsible for routine multi-pound orders, paying the Mexico source of supply, and accepting the bulk shipments from Mexico,” a release from the DOJ reads. “From October 2017 to January 2018, Aznaran obtained more than 10 kilograms of methamphetamine.”
The DOJ also identified Aznaran’s wife, 32-year-old Elisa Montes of Palm Desert, as a co-conspirator. The two repackaged the Mexican methamphetamine into smaller quantities and distributed it to other drug dealers in exchange for a portion of their profits. the DOJ said.
As part of his plea deal, Aznaran admitted to the conspiracy and to possessing more than 18 grams of heroin and nearly 111 grams of fentanyl. He also admitted to possessing firearms that he was prohibited from possessing due to previous felony convictions.
In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors called prison a place where incarcerated individuals can be away from the “destructive influences in their lives, including drugs.”
They said the smuggling scheme threatened the opportunity for vulnerable inmates to regain sobriety while behind bars.
So far, 35 defendants in this scheme have been convicted, with some receiving sentences as high as 10 years in prison. Among those convicted is Elisa Montes, who was sentenced in March 2020 to two years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.