Tampa, FL (STL.News) United States District Court Judge Susan C. Bucklew has sentenced Adan Barajas Maldonado (35, Mexico) to 25 years in prison for conspiring to distribute controlled substances and for possessing a gun to further his drug trafficking enterprise. Maldonado had pleaded guilty on October 30, 2019.
United States District Court Judge Charlene E. Honeywell has sentenced Edwar Rodriguez (32, New York), one of Maldonado’s assistants, to 11 years and 3 months in prison for his role in the same drug distribution conspiracy. Rodriguez had pleaded guilty on August 27, 2020.
According to information presented in court, Maldonado and his co-defendant, Juan Carlos Arias Castillo, who are affiliated with a Mexican drug cartel, operated a regional drug trafficking organization (DTO) based in Spring Hill, Florida. Each week, over multiple years, they distributed more than 20 kilograms of highly pure methamphetamine, as well as smaller amounts of other drugs, to their network of kilogram-level dealers. The dealers, in turn, sold the drugs to lower-level suppliers.
Maldonado and Castillo lived together and operated their DTO from a non-descript suburban home and employed several couriers/assistants, including Rodriguez, who picked up drugs in Texas, after they had been smuggled into the country from Mexico. They then drove the drugs to Florida, delivered them to Maldonado and Castillo’s biggest customers, collected payments, wired drug profits to Mexico, and recruited others to wire money as well to evade law enforcement.
On April 23, 2019, law enforcement officers surveilling Maldonado and Castillo’s residence observed them appearing to receive a drug delivery. They then executed a search warrant on the home. Inside they found, among other items, 29.5 pounds (over 13 kilograms) of liquid pure methamphetamine, 380 grams of powdered methamphetamine, 145 grams of cocaine, two guns, ammunition, a drug ledger, and evidence revealing how the drugs were smuggled over the border in car tires.
Castillo has pleaded guilty for his role in the conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced on December 8, 2020. Two other defendants, Christian and Victor Santiago Rondon, have pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced in January 2021. One of Maldonado and Castillo’s biggest customers, Jorge Ramirez, has pleaded guilty and is due to be sentenced in February 2021.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, and the Pasco Sheriff’s Office. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael M. Gordon.