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Man gets 5 years for possession of cocaine

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Posted at 11:33 AM, Sep 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-21 14:33:07-04

Jose Luis Montoya-Salazar, aka Rafael Salazar-Sanchez (Montoya), 43, a native and citizen of Mexico, was sentenced today to five years in prison for conspiring with Jimmy Gil, 35, of Shafter; and Luis Ricardo Eslava-Corral (Eslava), 42, of Sinaloa, Mexico, to import, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute 38 kilograms, or about 84 pounds, of cocaine, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

In a prior civil proceeding, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill ordered the forfeiture of $3,104,661 in cash that drug agents seized during the investigation of the criminal case.

Montoya’s sentence follows his guilty plea in May. In pleading guilty, Montoya admitted that he had conspired to offload the cocaine in Bakersfield that had been smuggled into the United States from Mexico. Follow-up investigation resulted in the seizure of over $3 million in cash hidden in an asphalt roller. The seized cocaine has a street value of over $3 million.

On July 27, 2015, Gil was sentenced to five years in prison, and on July 20, 2015, Eslava was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Southern Tri-County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bakersfield Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escobar prosecuted the criminal case, and Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Khasigian handled the civil forfeiture proceeding.