Criminal Justice News

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

St. Joseph Man Among 14 Defendants Indicted in $4 Million Drug-Trafficking Conspiracy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that 14 defendants have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute more than $4 million worth of methamphetamine and heroin in the St. Joseph, Mo., area and elsewhere.

Mario Alberto Yepez, 40, and Barbara Kay Tracy, also known as “Barbie,” 33, both of Elwood, Kan.; Messiah Edmundo Garcia, 30, of St. Joseph; Mario Enrique Morales, also known as “El Jeffe,” 63, Griselda Yepez-Garcia, 45, Jacquelyn Morales, 34, Manuela Maratinez-Morales, 69, and Enrique Morales, also known as “Henry,” 35, all of Laredo, Texas; Jose Luis Yepez, also known as “Joe,” 45, of Grand Island, Neb.; Cynthia Kaye Buboltz, 50, of Lewis, Iowa; Araceli Duran-Edeza, 20, of Bellflower, Calif.; Reyna Edeza, 26, of Los Angeles, Calif.; and Gracie Ann Edler, 47, and Richard S. Luther, 52, who are incarcerated on unrelated state charges, were charged in a four-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. That indictment was unsealed and made public today upon the arrests and initial court appearances of several defendants.

The federal indictment alleges that 11 of the defendants (with the exceptions of Martinez-Morales, Edeza and Duran-Edeza) participated in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin between Jan. 1, 2011, and Jan. 27, 2015. The indictment alleges that conspirators distributed 80 kilograms of methamphetamine and three kilograms of heroin during the four-year conspiracy.

All of the defendants are charged with participating in a money laundering conspiracy during the same time frame. They allegedly conducted financial transactions that involved the proceeds of the drug-trafficking conspiracy in order to conceal the nature, source, location, ownership and control of those proceeds and to avoid federal bank reporting requirements. According to the indictment, cash obtained from drug sales was deposited into various bank accounts, or stored, or transported, in such a manner as to conceal its true nature, source, location, ownership and control and to avoid federal bank reporting requirements.

During the conspiracy, the indictment says, law enforcement cooperators paid cash for controlled substances, which was deposited into various banks. Cash deposits made in close proximity to where the drug sales occurred, the indictment says, were quickly withdrawn in Texas and California.

In addition to the drug-trafficking and money-laundering conspiracies, the indictment also charges Mario Yepez with being a felon in possession of firearms. According to the indictment, Yepez, who has a prior felony conviction, was in possession of an FHN .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun, a Spikes Tactical AR rifle, a Ruger 9mm handgun, a Dan Wesson Arms .357-caliber revolver, a stolen Cobra .380-caliber handgun, a stolen Hi-Point .45-caliber rifle, two Norinco SKS 7.62x39 rifles, a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber handgun and a Smith & Wesson .22-caliber pistol.

The indictment also charges Mario Yepez, Tracy, Garcia and Enrique Morales with aiding and abetting the use or possession of the same firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

The federal indictment contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require the defendants to forfeit to the government any property derived from the proceeds of the alleged violations, including a money judgment of $4,011,000. That is based on a conservative street price of $1,300 per ounce of methamphetamine and an overall conspiracy distribution of approximately 80 kilograms, and a street price of $3,500 per ounce of heroin and an overall conspiracy distribution of approximately three kilograms.

Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Rhoades. It was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the St. Joseph, Mo., Police Department, the Grand Island, Neb., Police Department and the Grand Island, Neb., FBI Task Force.

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