A significant figure in a cocaine pipeline that operated between Mexico and Canada was sentenced Friday in Spokane to 14 years in prison.
The pipeline operated between 1990 and 1995 and is believed responsible for illegally smuggling more than a ton of cocaine into Canada.
The smuggling occurred in north-central Washington, north of Oroville.
The operation was cracked during a three-year probe by federal and local investigators who used informants and defendants’ confessions to unravel the conspiracy.
“It’s a major drug pipeline that we’ve broken up here,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Ohms.
Jose Maldonado, 38, was sentenced to prison for 14 years Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Frem Nielsen after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.
Ohms said the counts stemmed from the storage of 15 to 20 kilograms of cocaine at a garage at an Oroville residence where Maldonado lived with Sylvia Savoya. She is serving a two-year prison term for delivery of cocaine.
Maldonado also pleaded guilty to being an alien illegally in the United States after deportation and conviction for an aggravated felony.
As part of a plea agreement, government prosecutors agreed to seek dismissal of a federal firearms count that Maldonado faced.
He was arrested in February 1995 and indicted along with nine other defendants, including his brother, Felix Maldonado.
Ultimately, 18 people were indicted. Ohms said five of those defendants are fugitives.
A principal supplier in the conspiracy, Antro Carreno, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.