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21 years for drug ring leader

POSTED February 6, 2010 12:41 a.m.
A Merced man was sentenced to more than two decades in a federal prison for his role as the leader of a major drug distribution ring that used the Central Valley as the base to ship out cocaine to cities across the United States.
U.S. Superior Court Judge Oliver Wanger sentenced Sergio Reynol Padilla, 43, to 21 years and 10 months for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute large quantities of cocaine.
According to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office, Padilla ran an operation dubbed the “Cocaine Convoy” for six years that smuggled large shipments of cocaine from Mexico to the Central Valley and then shipped it via semi-tractor trailers to the various area for distribution to gang members.
In his plea agreement, Padilla admitted that between January 1, 2000 and May 22, 2006, he conspired with others to distribute at least 433 pounds of cocaine, valued at more than $2 million, in California, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and elsewhere. They shipped it in semi-tractor trailers, often filled with legitimate agricultural products, to the east coast for distribution in the Philadelphia area. He admitted that he laundered $100,000 in drug proceeds through the Lasher Brothers Trucking business based in Los Banos and used these laundered funds to purchase an apartment complex in Merced.
“The sentencing of Sergio Padilla closes the door on a sophisticated organization that used the Central Valley as a channel for its drug trafficking operations,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said. “We are grateful to the participating law enforcement agencies whose sustained collaborative efforts led to the conviction of 14 federal defendants, seizure of 35 kilograms of cocaine and two homes, and forfeiture of over $2 million in cash.”
At Padilla’s sentencing hearing, Judge Wanger considered testimony and evidence that Padilla had obtained and shipped over 1,000 kilograms of cocaine to the east coast and his willingness to use witting and unwitting family members in his drug trafficking activities. Judge Wanger also imposed a 10-year term of supervised release or unsupervised release, if Padilla is deported to Mexico. Padilla is not lawfully present in the United States.
In addition to Padilla, the following defendants have been convicted as a result of the investigation in this case:
Philip Brizan, 44, of Atwater, convicted of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, sentenced to 11 years in prison; Wayne Brizan, aka Cornelius James, aka Mark Brizan, aka Anthony Wilkins, 40, of Davie, Fla., convicted of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, sentenced to 10 years and nine months in custody; Jude Brizan, 45, of Modesto, convicted of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, sentenced to seven years and one month in prison; Gilbert Franklin, 34, of Merced, convicted of two counts of unlawful use of a communication facility to facilitate a felony drug offense, sentenced to eight years in prison; Lorena Perez, 41, of Merced, convicted of interstate transportation of drug proceeds, sentenced to five years in prison; Damon Gunn, aka Damian Gunn, 34, of Turlock, convicted of interstate transportation of drug proceeds, sentenced to five years in prison; Howard Gordon Jr., 34, of Los Angeles, convicted of attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine, sentenced to four years and nine months in prison; Trinidad Angulo, 43, of Madera, convicted of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, sentenced to four years and three months in prison; Gerardo Vargas Galica, 41, of Merced, convicted of avoidance of examination by immigration officers, sentenced to six months in custody; Monica Padilla, 32, wife of Padilla, of Merced, convicted of causing the filing of false currency transaction report, sentenced to five months in prison; Daniel Angulo, 41, extradited from Mexico, convicted of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, pending sentencing; Francheska Brizan, aka Francheska Hubble, 40, of Atwater,  convicted of misprision of a felony, pending sentencing; and Samuel Camacho-Gil, 60, of Firebaugh, convicted of making false statements to DEA agents.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141.

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