Paramount man sentenced to 35 years for trafficking drugs via Amtrak

A Paramount man was sentenced to 35 years in prison for overseeing a drug-trafficking ring that used Amtrak trains to ship heroin and cocaine to Chicago from Los Angeles.

Edgar Roque was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The 32-year-old pleaded guilty earlier this year to drug and money laundering charges.

Roque is accused of leading an extensive network of drug dealers that moved thousands of kilograms of narcotics aboard the trains from 2010 to 2016.

Prosecutors alleged that at Roque's direction, hundreds of packages were shipped from California to Chicago, St. Louis and elsewhere, each carrying at least three kilograms of cocaine.

He worked with an insider at Amtrak to facilitate the shipments and avoid detection by law enforcement, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Authorities uncovered Roque's drug-trafficking operation through a multi-year investigation dubbed "Operation Derailed." The investigation was conducted under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the DOJ said.

Roque was personally responsible for importing the drugs from Mexico into California via multiple cartel-level suppliers, authorities said. His organization involved more than a dozen people in California, Illinois and elsewhere.

After picking up the drugs at Union Station in Chicago, the group stored the narcotics at stash houses, including a home in the Gage Park neighborhood of Chicago and an apartment in northwest suburban Streamwood, the DOJ said.

After selling the drugs throughout the Chicago area, Roque or members of his crew periodically flew west on commercial airlines with the cash proceeds, often carrying $150,000 per person.

More than 20 defendants -- several from Southern California -- were charged during the investigation, and multiple have pleaded guilty to their roles in Roque's organization.

Phillip Diaz, of Paramount, ensured delivery of narcotics and maintained bank accounts to launder drug proceeds. Diaz was sentenced to 20 years and ten months in prison.

Anthony Koon, of Pueblo, Colorado, delivered nearly 20 kilograms of heroin - with a wholesale value of at least $1 million - to the Chicago area in August 2014. Koon was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Gerardo Sanchez, of Los Angeles, helped launder drug proceeds through various bank accounts, and he accepted delivery of Koon's heroin in a hotel room in Tinley Park. Sanchez was previously sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison.

Jorge Luis Ochoa-Canela, of Paramount, helped move hundreds of thousands of dollars of drug proceeds back to drug suppliers. Ochoa-Canela was previously sentenced to five years and ten months in prison.

An Amtrak employee, Roy J. Griffin, of Calumet City, admitted scheming to steal a package of cocaine that had arrived at Union Station in Chicago. Griffin was previously sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Defendants who have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing include Richard Roque, of Paramount (scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 27, 2018); Angelica Cervantes, of Chicago (Nov. 19, 2018); Juan J. Cervantes, of Chicago (Nov. 21, 2018); and Omar Ramirez, of Compton. (Dec. 18, 2018).
Related Topics:
sentencingdrugsillegal drugsu.s. & worldcocaineamtrakdepartment of justiceParamountLos Angeles CountyIllinois
(Copyright ©2018 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.)