Local News

Agents arrest 15 alleged drug cartel members

Posted September 18, 2008

— Federal and state agents and local officers arrested 15 people this week, and have netted nearly 30 overall, as part of an international operation against what they said is an extremely violent Mexican drug cartel.

Federal agents assigned to a Raleigh-based drug task force assisted local officers in arresting 15 people Tuesday. Officers seized cash, cocaine and six weapons and searched seven locations in Johnston and Wayne counties, they said.

"In the end, these drug traffickers were removed from our communities. No more will they sell illegal drugs or spread fear and intimidation," said John Emerson, assistant special-agent-in-charge for North Carolina for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The operation was part of Project Reckoning, a 15-month DEA investigation into the Gulf Cartel. It has spanned a dozen American states and reached into Italy as well.

The Gulf Cartel has imported tons of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana from Central and South America and distributed it in the United States, U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said. The cartel is also believed to have laundered millions of dollars and been a driving force behind escalating violence in Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Nationally, Project Reckoning has resulted in 507 arrests and the seizure of about $60.1 million, 16,711 kilograms of cocaine, 1,039 pounds of methamphetamine, 19 pounds of heroin, 51,258 pounds of marijuana, 176 vehicles and 167 weapons.

Triangle-area law enforcement agencies have arrested at least 13 people in addition to those taken in Tuesday and seized 122 kilograms of cocaine, 17 weapons and more than $1.1 million in cash.

The operations were coordinated by the N.C.-Triangle High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, formed in February to work with local agencies in cracking down on drug trafficking throughout North Carolina.

The investigation was led by the Wake and Wayne sheriff's offices and police departments in Durham, Raleigh, Rocky Mount, Cary and Wilson, as well as the State Bureau of Investigation. The suspects will be prosecuted by the district attorneys for Wayne, Wake, Nash and Johnston counties and the U.S. attorney for eastern North Carolina.

"I commend the hard work and cooperative efforts of the participating law enforcement agencies in this investigation," Emerson said. "The hard work and tireless devotion to making the Raleigh-Triangle area a safer place can be seen in the results."

Authorities named those arrested Tuesday and charged with trafficking in cocaine:

  • Eric Alejandro Cortez Cisneros, 25, of Princeton
  • Pablo Martinez Avellaneda, 34, of Magnolia
  • Reynaldo Garcia Vasquez, 28, of Goldsboro
  • Juan Acosta Vasquez, 30, of Goldsboro
  • Israel Garcia Vasquez, 22, of Goldsboro
  • Antoine Darnell Lambert, 24, of Brodnax, Va.
  • Hector Ramos Avellandeda, 23, of Virginia Beach, Va.
  • Eduardo Anastasio Almanza, 36, of Trenton
  • Sergio Ramon Perales Reyna, 20, of Trenton
  • Quentin Ray Locklear, 23, of Robeson County
  • Cody Varel Locklear, 21, of Robeson County
  • Antonio Lopez Sanchez, 19, of Johnston County
  • Johnnie Sanchez, 28, of Raleigh
  • Javier Nunez "Chaparro" Villaneuva, 42, of Zebulon
  • Pablo "El Viejo" Palacio

Quentin and Ray Locklear, Antonio and Johnnie Sanchez, Villaneuva and Palacio were arrested in connection with the seizure of 2.5 kilograms of cocaine in Johnston County.

Vasquez, Almanza and Reyna had been arrested in December 2007 for possession of 14 kilograms of cocaine in Wayne County.


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  • coolwill Sep 22, 2008

    Did any one notice that N&O place this in a small article on the inside of their paper?
    If it was something in support of illegals, N&Os front page would been covered with it as well as other pages including the names of workers and the work they are doing.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Sep 22, 2008

    So this will stop the drugs. Please there is more work to do than this. Stop it at the borders will be a start.

  • alwayslovingu30 Sep 22, 2008

    amen to all of ya if they R illegal they go home if U R illegal an U Have A child your child is illegal.the customs agent say they let some go for humitarian reasons fit them with bracelets give them court dates why R they not deported.Our system has gone to the dogs the schools dont care,nor goverments,state,if their was A petition to sign to remove the law of born resident I would let everbody I know sign it

  • saltnsanddefenderofdamiddleclass Sep 19, 2008

    It is possible to get illegals out. First, no citizenship for children born here, no school, nothing. Second, start shutting off the jobs by going after the employers. Works for tax compliance why not illegal workers. Three, shut off any and all public assistance. It is not the job of the americian taxpayer, who works four months or more a year to just pay taxes, to improve the lives of those who illegally come here. By optional laws I am merely using the argument that illegal supporters such as laraza use. They say the illegals are otherwise law abiding except for breaking just this one little law. And there's so many breaking it that we really just need amnesty. Really? Try using the same argument with the irs and see where it gets you. it will not get you compassion that's for sure. Fine, let's get rid of the dangerous ones, that's obvious, but also let's secure the border. let's also crush gangs like ms13. until our borders are secure there should be no worker program

  • so you dont like my opinion ok Sep 19, 2008

    Well put TallWillow. I don't want people like this around period, I don't care what nationality they are. Well done police, drugs are a nuisance and are destroying our families. I say give hard and I mean hard sentences to make examples then maybe people will think twice about doing this.

  • TallWillow Sep 19, 2008

    chrisbcpa: Who, besides you, said anything about "optional laws"? I doubt you truly believe that speeding or disobeying water restrictions are crimes equal to dealing drugs. So why are you talking about them as if they were?

    As I said above, something needs to be done about illegal immigration, but there are no simple solutions. Even leaving aside small details like compassion, it's just not practical, or even possible, to get all undocumented people out of the country quickly, and obviously, keeping more people from entering isn't working too well, either. I don't know about you, but given these realistic limitations, I'd like to get rid of the dangerous people first. Do you think that's a bad idea?

  • saltnsanddefenderofdamiddleclass Sep 19, 2008

    See, being a member of a drug cartel is work americans just won't do cause they're lazy. Guess they need guest worker visas. They're really just hardworking, trying to improve their lives.

  • saltnsanddefenderofdamiddleclass Sep 19, 2008

    So if the drug dealers say, obey the speed limit and the non drug dealer doesn't, then you could say those that were arrested were otherwise law abiding and they just picked a different law to not observe. so if I disobey the water restrictions instead of getting fined I can just tell them I just decided not to obey that rule. I'd like a list from LaRaza of the optional laws on the books.

  • TallWillow Sep 19, 2008

    (Sorry, I thought I'd already posted this.)

    Continued from above: An elderly or disabled citizen can get SSI benefits even if s/he never contributed to the system at all.

    The only benefit an immigrant can get that a citizen can't under the same circumstances is refugee assistance. Refugee assistance is very little ($297 per month for a family of 4) and is time-limited.

    It is true that the US-born children of undocumented immigrants can get assistance, but no more than the citizen children of citizens can.

    Something needs to be done about illegal immigration, but saying things that aren't true is not productive. Neither are there any simple solutions.

    On the other hand, I haven't seen anything that indicates that these particular criminals are immigrants at all, much less that says anything about their immigration status if they are. A Spanish name does not mean someone is an immigrant, nor does an English name mean they're not.

  • TallWillow Sep 19, 2008

    imback: nice strawman argument, but I nowhere said anything about supporting any kind of criminal behavior. Not everyone who is here illegally uses someone else's identity, even if they are working.