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Man who admitted to operating cocaine trafficking ring using big rigs ordered to pay feds $56 million

A Kansas man was sentenced last month for his role in a large scale drug trafficking operation running between El Paso and Kansas City.

On May 21, 40 year old Jose Luis Armendariz-Rascon was sentenced to 15 years in prison without parole, according to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office.

Armendariz-Rascon was also ordered to forfeit more than $56 million worth of proceeds from drug trafficking to the federal government.

In January 2020, Armendariz-Rascon pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking conspiracy and to money laundering. He admitted to purchasing and distributing 10 to 15 kilograms of powder cocaine per week for a period of about four years.

Authorities say that Armendariz-Rascon was in charge of coordinating the transportation of loads of cocaine from El Paso to the metropolitan Kansas City area. He was also in charge of coordinating the transportation of cash to El Paso to pay for the cocaine.

Armendariz-Rascon is among 13 defendants convicted in this case, of whom 12 have now been sentenced. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office provided additional detail on the drug trafficking operation:

Co-defendant Otilio Zaragoza-Navarrette, 64, of El Paso, delivered cocaine to Jose Armendariz-Rascon as well as to co-defendants Miguel Armendariz-Rascon, 33, a citizen of Mexico residing in Olathe, Kan., and Jesus Salvador Campoy-Estrada, also known as “Chava” and “Chavita,” 26, of Kansas City, Kan. Zaragoza-Navarrette and Miguel Armendariz-Rascon have pleaded guilty and been sentenced. Campoy-Estrada pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

Zaragoza-Navarette also transported illicit drug proceeds from the drug-trafficking organization back to Texas and/or to Mexico. Zaragoza-Navarrette hid the cocaine and/or the cash proceeds inside of five-gallon gas cans and anti-freeze jugs on his commercial semi-tractor trailer.

In one instance, law enforcement officers seized nearly $500,000 from Zaragoza-Navarrette, who was transferring the illicit drug proceeds in an operation orchestrated by Armendariz-Rascon. On May 21, 2017, investigators were conducting surveillance at a residence in the 4700 block of North Mulberry Court in Kansas City as Campoy-Estrada was driving a white Chevrolet van with Miguel Armendariz-Rascon in the passenger’s seat. Investigators followed the van as it proceeded to the area of Candlewood Suites, 4450 Randolph Road, Kansas City, and pulled onto Corrington Road on the west side of Candlewood Suites. The van parked in front of a diesel tractor-trailer. Campoy-Estrada carried a white plastic jug from the van to the passenger side of the tractor-trailer. Campoy-Estrada then returned to the van with a red plastic gas can and placed the gas can into the rear of the van. Campoy-Estrada and Miguel Armendariz-Rascon then left the area.

Law enforcement officers continued to surveil the tractor-trailer, being driven by Zaragoza-Navarrette, as it left the Candlewood Suites and began to drive northbound on I-35. The Missouri State Highway Patrol conducted a traffic stop of the tractor-trailer at mile marker 68. Troopers searched the vehicle and found a red five-gallon plastic gas can and two white plastic jugs that contained a total of $491,211.

The investigation was assisted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Lee’s Summit, Mo., Police Department.