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The final defendant in a suspected metro area drug and money laundering ring has been sentenced to a term of 78 months in federal prison.

America Saucedo-Moreno, 45, of Phoenix, pleaded guilty to the charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to commit money laundering in the U.S. District Court in the District of Nebraska, according to a press release issued by U.S. Attorney Joe Kelly.

Authorities said the woman was acting as a courier, transporting methamphetamine manufactured in Mexico to distribution points in Omaha and Council Bluffs.

The investigation began in fall of 2017, when in October, Carlos Manriquez-Aviles of Council Bluffs was suspected of distributing drugs on behalf of a criminal enterprise operating out of Mexico, the release said. Saucedo, along with another Phoenix-based courier, Jorge Antonio Alonzo-Lopez, reportedly made arrangements to meet Manriquez at a Wal-Mart near 72nd and Hickory Streets in Omaha. The pair was then observed following Manriquez to a nearby apartment complex, where they delivered 10 pounds of methamphetamine to Manriquez.

Manriquez was then followed to another location where he was observed delivering three pounds of the powerful stimulant to Sara Spencer, of Omaha, the release said. Spencer was stopped shortly after the exchange by Omaha police officers, who proceeded to search her car. With the assistance of a K-9 unit, the methamphetamine was confiscated.

An IRS investigation into the organization uncovered a paper trail stretching from drug suppliers in Mexico to Manriquez in Omaha, who officials say was directed by traffickers south of the border to deposit money into Saucedo’s bank account in Phoenix. Unable to make the deposits as instructed, Saucedo’s daughter, Lourdes Perez-Saucedo, opened a different bank account in order to receive the proceeds for Saucedo-Moreno. The Mexican suppliers provided Manriquez with Perez’s new account number and funds were transferred from an Omaha bank to Phoenix.

In November 2017, Manriquez supplied another man, Roman Lazcano-Acosta, with multiple pounds of methamphetamine on at least two occasions, with the second resulting in the arrest of both men following a sale of six pounds of the drug from Manriquez to Lozcano, according to the release.

Saucedo and Alonzo were apprehended by authorities on a separate trip from Phoenix to Omaha on Nov. 16. Perez was arrested in Phoenix in December for her role in setting up the bank account which the drug proceeds were received.

The case was investigated in a joint effort by the Omaha Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the Omaha Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“This investigation illustrates the level of wholesale drug trafficking organizations that are infiltrating and saturating our communities with methamphetamine,” Special Agent in Charge Richard Salter Jr. said. “Furthermore, despite being 1,600 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, the Mexican drug cartels’ supply chains and reach into our communities are ever-present and increasing. I applaud the teamwork of all the law enforcement agencies, and especially the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nebraska for exerting the full force of the law to hold these criminals accountable for infecting our communities with this poison.”

Manriquez received the stiffest sentence of the six, as he was ordered to serve a 14-year prison term after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, use of facilities in interstate commerce in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Alonzo-Lopez was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and sentenced to a term of nine years. Following the completion of the sentence, he will be removed to Guatemala by immigration authorities.

Spencer pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and is serving a sentence of 108 months.

Lazcano-Acosta is serving a 10-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, as well as the immigration-related offense of reentry of a remove alien. Lazcano agreed to be removed to Mexico by immigration officials upon the completion of his sentence.

Perez-Saucedo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and received a sentence of five years of probation.

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