Fresno, California - A Bakersfield-area man was sentenced in federal court Monday to five years in prison for his role in a cocaine trafficking scheme that led to the seizure of more than $6 million worth of cash and cocaine.
Jose Luis Montoya-Salazar, aka Rafael Salazar-Sanchez (Montoya), 43, a native and citizen of Mexico, was sentenced for conspiring to import and distribute more than 84 pounds of cocaine. In May, Montoya pleaded guilty, admitting he had conspired with two other men to offload the cocaine in Bakersfield that had been smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico.
Montoya’s co-defendants, Jimmy Gil, 35, of Shafter; and Luis Ricardo Eslava-Corral (Eslava), 42, of Sinaloa, Mexico, were sentenced in July. Gil received a five-year prison term. Eslava was sentenced to 20 months.
“Our joint efforts in this case kept a large quantity of cocaine from reaching the streets and that helps keep our communities safe,” said Michael Toms, resident agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Bakersfield. “HSI is committed to working tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations like this that are involved in the trafficking of dangerous contraband.”
Previously, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill ordered the forfeiture of more than $3 million in cash seized by federal agents after they found it hidden in an asphalt roller. In addition, cocaine with an estimated street value of over $3 million was also seized.
HSI was one of multiple law enforcement agencies involved in the probe. Other participants included: the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Southern Tri-County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force; the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office; and the Bakersfield Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar prosecuted the criminal case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Khasigian handled the civil forfeiture proceeding.