Arizona Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Interstate Methamphetamine Distribution Conspiracy
OMAHA, Neb. – United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced that Reiko Elio Penunuri, 42, of Arizona, was sentenced January 13 in federal court in Omaha for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and for use of facilities in interstate commerce in aid of racketeering. A cellular phone is a “facility” as used in the relevant criminal statute. United States District Judge Brian C. Buescher sentenced Penunuri to 20 years imprisonment. There is no parole in the federal system. After his release from prison, Penunuri will serve a five-year term of supervised release.
During the first few months of 2018, investigators intercepted wire and electronic communications among co-defendant Jasive Zamora-Carrillo, Penunuri, and their co-defendants involving methamphetamine trafficking in the Omaha, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, metropolitan areas. Penunuri was among the persons intercepted and identified during the investigation. During that time, Penunuri, acting in agreement with others, distributed pound and multi-pound quantities to local customers. In furtherance of his methamphetamine trafficking activities, Penunuri traveled interstate between Nebraska, Arizona, and Iowa and used a cellular phone in interstate commerce.
On June 5, 2018, investigators arrested several members of the drug trafficking organization. Investigators also executed search warrants at several locations and recovered more than 10 pounds of methamphetamine, drug ledgers, bank records, several firearms (including an AR-15 style rifle), and $22,000 of U.S. Currency, which has been forfeited to the United States as drug proceeds. Investigators thereafter learned that Penunuri left the local area and traveled to Mexico on the morning of June 3, 2018. Penunuri, a U.S. Citizen, resided in Hermosillo, Mexico until U.S. Customs and Border Patrol arrested him on September 26, 2019, at a location near Nogales, Arizona.
Ten defendants were indicted in this case and nine have now been sentenced. The remaining fugitive, Jose Cruz Jauregui-Preciado, has yet to be arrested. Several related narcotics and firearms cases were prosecuted in the District of Nebraska and the Southern District of Iowa as a result of the overall investigation. The investigation confirmed that Zamora-Carrillo was a multi-pound methamphetamine trafficker supplied primarily by Penunuri and his cousin, co-defendant Ramon Penunuri-Noriega. Penunuri used a series of Airbnb rentals and storage units located throughout the Omaha area and in Iowa in furtherance of methamphetamine trafficking. Zamora-Carrillo and Penunuri-Noriega were each previously sentenced to 168-month terms of imprisonment.
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.
“Today’s sentencing is the culmination of a case in which it was proven once again that drugs and violence go hand-in-hand,” DEA Omaha Division Special Agent in Charge Richard Salter Jr., said. “Reiko Penunuri and his counterparts were dangerous criminals who pushed drugs and brought violence to our communities. Our job at DEA is to rid the streets of these drug dealers who prey on our children and other vulnerable individuals. This case was successful because of the strong partnerships developed between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and I applaud the hard work of those involved.”
U.S. Attorney Kelly praised the efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Omaha Police Department and other agencies for coming together on this investigation and the resulting prosecutions. Kelly added, “This investigation is a textbook example of successful cooperation among the several federal, state and local law enforcement agencies combatting narcotics distribution and firearms offenses in the Omaha and Council Bluffs areas. Efforts such as these greatly degrade the availability of debilitating narcotics in this region and keep our communities safe.”
The case was investigated primarily by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Omaha Field Division, the Omaha Police Department, and the Southwest Iowa Narcotics Task Force. The United States Marshals Service in the District of Nebraska was instrumental in locating and facilitating the arrest of Penunuri while he was in fugitive status.