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Mexican National Caught With $260K In Car Sentenced For Heroin Trafficking

U.S. District Court in Hartford.
U.S. District Court in Hartford. Photo Credit: File

A Mexican national is set to spend the next four years behind bars before being deported after pleading guilty to trafficking heroin in Connecticut.

John Durham, the United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that 44-year-old Onel Arana-Gervacio - also known as Arana Ricardo Leon Cepeda - has been sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, one kilogram or more of heroin, and one count of illegal reentry.

In October 2016, the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama conducted a motor vehicle stop of a car hauler that was carrying a 2012 Chevrolet Malibu, Durham said. A search of the Malibu, which was registered to Arana-Gervacio, revealed that it contained a hidden compartment, which is commonly used to conceal and transport illegal contraband, including narcotics, firearms and currency, law enforcement officials stated.

Investigators went on to obtain court authorization to install tracking devices on the vehicle and, between October 2016 and January 2017, Homeland Security agents observed it at various locations in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

On Jan. 17 last year, agents located the Malibu in Hartford.  On Jan. 20, surveillance officers observed activity on another vehicle located at the same Maple Avenue residence consistent with manipulating a mechanical hidden compartment. Officers then observed Arana-Gervacio place two duffel bags into the second vehicle before driving off. At approximately 8:30 p.m. that day, a Hartford Police cruiser pulled the car over.  The vehicle also contained a hidden trap, but a search revealed no contraband.

A subsequent search of the Maple Avenue home found more than six kilograms of heroin, approximately 500 grams of cocaine and a “finger press,” which is used to process bulk quantities of heroin into 10-gram-bags known as “fingers,” officials said. Agents also seized drug distribution materials, including sifters, grinders, scales, vacuum sealers and kilo wrappers, which were coated in heroin residue and field-tested positive for the presence of fentanyl.

During the search, law enforcement agents also found an estimated $260,000 in cash from inside the trap. Laboratory testing of the seized heroin revealed that some of it contained fentanyl.

Further investigation into Arana-Gervacio revealed that in October 2013, a U.S. Border Patrol agent encountered him near Hidalgo, Texas, and determined that Arana-Gervacio had unlawfully entered the country from Mexico. He was later removed to Mexico on Nov. 2 that year.

Arana-Gervacio has been detained since his arrest last year. Upon his release from prison, he is scheduled to be deported back to Mexico.

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