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Sonoran man gets 11-year sentence in drug tunnel case

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Sonoran man gets 11-year sentence in drug tunnel case

52-year-old from Mexico had role in Naco cocaine operation

A Mexican man was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his role in a Naco drug tunnel operation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

Victor A. Flores, 52, of Hermosillo, Sonora, was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson for conspiring with three other people to possess with intent to distribute more than 8 tons of cocaine, said Sandy Raynor, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, in a press release.

The cocaine had been smuggled through a tunnel from Mexico into Naco, Ariz.

“During the conspiracy, Flores allowed his residence to be used to store approximately one ton of cocaine,” said Ann Birmingham Scheel, acting U.S. Attorney, in the press release.

The investigation began after more than 5 tons of cocaine were seized from a Tucson warehouse in December 1996. An additional, 2,660 pounds of the drug, three automatic machine guns and $1.5 million in cash were seized during the investigation, Raynor said.

More than 50 people connected to the Naco tunnel have been convicted.

Flores was to face trial in 2001 for his involvement in the cocaine operation, but fled one week before the trial was to start. He was captured in Mexico in 2010 and extradited to the United States that December, Raynor said.

There have been three trials involving the Naco tunnel. Two happened in 2001 and the third in 2007.

Francisco Valle Hurtado, 38, and Ruben Ulteras Estrada were convicted in 2007 for possession with intent to distribute 17,715 pounds of cocaine.

Valle also was convicted of possessing a machine gun while committing the drug crimes. He used the gun to guard the drug after it passed through the tunnel, Raynor said.

Valle and Ulteras each were sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

“The persistence of law enforcement and prosecutors in ensuring the defendants in this case face justice was outstanding,” Scheel said in the press release.

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