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Crime Report

RALEIGH – United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. announced that today in federal court, United States District Judge James C. Dever III sentenced LUIS JOEL ROBLES LATORRES, 42, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, to 162 months imprisonment, followed by 5 years of supervised release.

LATORRES was named in a 12-count Indictment filed on December 12, 2017, and on July 9, 2018, he pled guilty to one count of Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with the Intent to Distribute 5 Kilograms or More of Cocaine and one count of Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime.

In 2015, the Fayetteville Police Department, the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified members of a Puerto Rican drug trafficking organization (DTO) operating in Cumberland and Sampson counties.  Surveillance, wire intercepts, and confidential sources of information (CSIs) were used to identify multiple drug traffickers working in connection with the DTO. Specifically, the investigation identified LATORRES as one of the leaders within the DTO.

Agents began receiving information about the DTO from CSI #1.  Specifically CSI #1 identified LATORRES as the individual responsible for arranging cocaine shipments from Puerto Rico.  LATORRES was also responsible for collecting drug proceeds and sending them back to the DTO in Puerto Rico.

On November 3, 2017, agents intercepted multiple calls in which LATORRES arranged the purchase of 1.5 kilograms of cocaine.  Surveillance units followed the source to LATORRES’ residence in Fayetteville and then to a restaurant parking lot.  Agents subsequently stopped the vehicle driven by an individual affiliated with the drug trafficking organization and seized a black bag containing $45,000 in U.S. Currency.

The investigation established that between November 2014 and September 2017, LATORRES conservatively distributed more than 165 kilograms of cocaine. Additionally, the evidence established that LATORRES possessed a handgun during multiple drug transactions with co-conspirators. LATORRESalso utilized two individuals to receive and store large quantities of cocaine at their residences.

This prosecution is part of an extensive investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) named Operation La Vida Loca. OCDETF is a joint federal, state, and local cooperative approach to combat drug trafficking and is the nation’s primary tool for disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, targeting national and regional level drug trafficking organizations, and coordinating the necessary law enforcement entities and resources to disrupt or dismantle the targeted criminal organization and seize their assets.

That effort has been implemented through the Take Back North Carolina Initiative of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina. This initiative emphasizes the regional assignment of federal prosecutors to work with law enforcement and District Attorney’s Offices in those communities on a sustained basis to reduce the violent crime rate, drug trafficking, and crimes against law enforcement.

Investigation of this case was conducted by the Fayetteville Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Wilmington Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Scott A. Lemmon represented the government.

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