Two men who served as drug runners for a Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) cartel connected drug trafficking organization were sentenced to prison this week following an extensive wiretap investigation, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.

In sentencing 28-year-old Armando Fierro-Ponce to eight years in prison, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour noted that he had acted as a debt collector for the organization, obtaining guns and making threats of violence against those who owed the group money.

The Kent Police Department assisted in this case.

“A wiretap investigation captured the criminal conduct of these two defendants, and the roles they played in the organization. Fierro-Ponce discussed obtaining firearms and threatening those in debt to the organization,” said U.S. Attorney Brown. “Fortunately, law enforcement was listening, and able to intervene before threats of kidnapping and assault became a reality. Now, both men are heading to prison for their part in an organization that trafficked pound quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, and potentially deadly fentanyl pills throughout King, Snohomish, Lewis, and Pierce Counties.”

Fierro-Ponce was among nineteen people indicted in July 2020, following an 18-month investigation of the drug trafficking organization. The drug trafficking group disguised methamphetamine in candles to smuggle it into the Pacific Northwest. When the candle wax was melted, the methamphetamine was then processed into crystal meth and sold.

During the two months that law enforcement was monitoring phones of the drug organization, there were multiple times when Fierro-Ponce was heard discussing firearms and violent debt-collection activities. Law enforcement responded to these threats by flooding the area near the potential victim with law enforcement, warning the potential victim and/or making arrests to prevent the violence.

A second drug runner for the organization, 27-year-old Edgar Luna-Garcia, was sentenced to five years in prison. Luna-Garcia was trusted by the organization with large loads of methamphetamine and was called on to clean out a stash house following a shooting.

Neither Fierro-Ponce nor Luna-Garcia have legal status in the United States and likely will be deported following their prison terms.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Tacoma Resident Office in partnership with Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team (TNET), Kent Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, SeaTac Police Department, Thurston County Narcotics Team (TNT), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Amy Jaquette and C. Andrew Colasurdo.

Scott Schaefer

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