A Turlock man has been named by federal agents as the key link in a drug chain that funneled large amounts cocaine and marijuana to college campuses in North Carolina.
Francisco Javier Ochoa Jr., 27, of Turlock was indicted in November 2019 for conspiracy to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana. On Nov. 24, 2020, Ochoa entered a guilty plea to the charges against him and was sentenced to 73 months in prison and five years of supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of North Carolina. He also was ordered to pay a $250,000 forfeiture judgment.
The investigation resulting in Ochoa's arrest began several years ago when the Orange County Sheriff's Office received information about the sale of illegal drugs on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, while working a different drug case.
In November 2018, agents and officers assigned to the DEA’s Raleigh District Office initiated an investigation into the distribution of cocaine hydrochloride and other illegal drugs in the Chapel Hill area. Early into the investigation law enforcement discovered that illegal drug distribution occurred at or near some UNC fraternal organization properties. Court filings to date specifically allege illegal drug activity involving the UNC chapters of Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma, and Beta Theta Pi occurring between 2017 and the spring of 2020.
According to documents filed in court, from March 2017 until March 22, 2019, Ochoa supplied approximately 200 pounds of marijuana and two kilograms of cocaine weekly to a cooperating defendant in Orange County. From there, the cocaine was shipped via the United States Postal Service and the marijuana was transported by vehicle.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the involved parties shipped bulk cash proceeds from the drug sales through the postal service. Other proceeds, estimated to be approximately $1.3 million, transferred hands through financial institutions utilizing money orders, Western Union, and mobile payment applications, like Venmo.
Law enforcement operations at locations in North Carolina seized 148.75 pounds of marijuana, 442 grams of cocaine, 189 Xanax pills, steroids, human growth hormone, other narcotics, and approximately $27,775.00 in cash.
Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement used information from cooperating sources and cooperating defendants, and investigative methods such as controlled purchases, undercover purchases, financial investigation, surveillance, and analysis of electronic devices.
Twenty additional defendants were charged between July and December 2020, including Mariela Zavala Mondoza, also known as Maria Ochoa, 25, of Turlock. She was indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. All the other defendants reside in North Carolina, many of whom were members of the fraternities involved in the drug sales.
“College communities should be a safe haven for young adults to obtain a higher education, not a place where illegal drugs are easily accessible,” said United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, Robert J. Murphy. “These fraternity members’ drug trafficking crimes contributed to a toxic and dangerous environment on these college campuses. The arrest of these drug traffickers makes these college campuses and their respective communities safer. DEA and its law enforcement partners will continue to strive to ensure these college campuses remain a safe environment charged with educating the best and brightest so they may become future leaders of our country. These arrests are a shining example how success can be achieved through spirited law enforcement cooperation.”