A man who was a leader of a $56 million criminal enterprise was sentenced in federal court for his role in the conspiracy that distributed more than 2,600 kilograms (5,732 pounds) of cocaine in the metropolitan area.
Jose Luis Armendariz-Rascon, Kansas City, Kansas, also known as “Uncle” or “Rambo,” 40, was sentenced by U.S. Chief District Judge Beth Phillips to 15 years in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Armendariz-Rascon to forfeit to the government more than $56 million, which represents the proceeds of illegal drug trafficking.
On Jan. 22, 2020, Armendariz-Rascon pleaded guilty to his role in the drug-trafficking conspiracy and to money laundering. Armendariz-Rascon admitted that he purchased and distributed 10 to 15 kilograms of powder cocaine per week for a period of about four years.
Armendariz-Rascon was in charge of coordinating the transportation of loads of cocaine from the El Paso, Texas, area to the Kansas City metropolitan area for distribution. Armendariz-Rascon would then coordinate the collection of bulk cash that was sent back to El Paso as payment for the cocaine.
Armendariz-Rascon is among 13 defendants convicted in this case, of whom 12 have now been sentenced. Howard Christopher Walters, also known as “Chris,” 43, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, was sentenced on April 21, 2021, to 25 years in federal prison without parole after pleading guilty to his role in the drug-trafficking conspiracy.
Co-defendant Otilio Zaragoza-Navarrette, 64, of El Paso, delivered cocaine to Jose Armendariz-Rascon as well as to co-defendants Miguel Armendariz-Rascon, 33, a citizen of Mexico residing in Olathe, Kan., and Jesus Salvador Campoy-Estrada, also known as “Chava” and “Chavita,” 26, of Kansas City, Kan. Zaragoza-Navarrette and Miguel Armendariz-Rascon have pleaded guilty and been sentenced. Campoy-Estrada pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.
Zaragoza-Navarette also transported illicit drug proceeds from the drug-trafficking organization back to Texas and/or to Mexico. Zaragoza-Navarrette hid the cocaine and/or the cash proceeds inside of five-gallon gas cans and anti-freeze jugs on his commercial semi-tractor trailer.
In one instance, law enforcement officers seized nearly $500,000 from Zaragoza-Navarrette, who was transferring the illicit drug proceeds in an operation orchestrated by Armendariz-Rascon. On May 21, 2017, investigators were conducting surveillance at a residence in the 4700 block of North Mulberry Court in Kansas City as Campoy-Estrada was driving a white Chevrolet van with Miguel Armendariz-Rascon in the passenger’s seat. Investigators followed the van as it proceeded to the area of Candlewood Suites, 4450 Randolph Road, Kansas City, and pulled onto Corrington Road on the west side of Candlewood Suites. The van parked in front of a diesel tractor-trailer. Campoy-Estrada carried a white plastic jug from the van to the passenger side of the tractor-trailer. Campoy-Estrada then returned to the van with a red plastic gas can and placed the gas can into the rear of the van. Campoy-Estrada and Miguel Armendariz-Rascon then left the area.
Law enforcement officers continued to surveil the tractor-trailer, being driven by Zaragoza-Navarrette, as it left the Candlewood Suites and began to drive northbound on I-35. The Missouri State Highway Patrol conducted a traffic stop of the tractor-trailer at mile marker 68. Troopers searched the vehicle and found a red five-gallon plastic gas can and two white plastic jugs that contained a total of $491,211.
A confidential source has indicated the drug-trafficking organization purchased cocaine for approximately $27,000 to $27,500 per kilogram. Accordingly, $491,211 in illicit drug proceeds would convert to between 15 and 19 kilograms of powder cocaine.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Trey Alford and Robert Smith. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Lee’s Summit, Mo., Police Department.