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California Man Sentenced For Distributing Cocaine

$1.4 million, 3 kilos of cocaine, seized from vehicle

SPRINGFIELD –– Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Fresno, Calif., man has been sentenced in federal court in a case that began when law enforcement officers found more than $1.4 million and nearly three kilograms of cocaine hidden in a vehicle as he was traveling through Greene County, Mo.

Efrain Orozco, 42, of Fresno, a naturalized citizen of the United States, was sentenced by U.S. District judge Richard E. Dorr on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012, to 10 years in federal prison without parole.

On Sept. 13, 2011, Orozco was found guilty by a trial jury of both counts of a federal indictment that charged him with possessing cocaine and crack cocaine with the intent to distribute.

Co-defendant Fernando Gutierrez-Ponce, 28, of Farmington, New Mexico, a naturalized citizen of the United States, was sentenced to three years and four months in federal prison without parole after pleading guilty to possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute.

Gutierrez-Ponce was driving a 2006 International tractor pulling a flatbed trailer westbound on Interstate 44 (west of U.S. Highway 65) on March 20, 2010. Gutierrez-Ponce and Orozco, a passenger in the tractor, were stopped for a compliance and safety inspection. Missouri State Highway Patrol commercial motor vehicle officers became suspicious and a state trooper searched the vehicle. They removed a portion of the interior wall of the tractor and found 62 bundles of cash, totaling $1,433,981. They also found a bundle that contained nearly three kilograms of cocaine and two bundles that contained approximately 55.5 grams of crack cocaine.

The government seized the money that was found in the vehicle.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David P. Rush and Cindy Hyde. It was investigated by Drug Enforcement Administration and Missouri State Highway Patrol.