Crime & Courts

Charlotte leader of international drug ring sent to prison

The suspected leader of Charlotte’s arm of an international drug ring, which brought more than 3,100 pounds of marijuana to the city on a single day, was sent to prison Tuesday for more than 20 years.

Carlos Edgar Sandoval-Uriel, 31, a Mexican national living in Charlotte, had pleaded guilty earlier to drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy charges. U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney sentenced him to 252 months in prison and five years of supervised release.

Sandoval-Uriel becomes the last of a dozen defendants to be sentenced in the case. Federal authorities say he and his lieutenants smuggled drugs into the area from Mexico for about four years before their arrests in 2012.

The crackdown came about two weeks after the Mexican drug ring sent 3,100 pounds of marijuana to Charlotte hidden in industrial-sized farming equipment. Prosecutors say the drugs had a street value of $2.5 million.

During subsequent searches of the drug cell’s alleged “stash house,” investigators say they found 2 kilos of cocaine. At Sandoval-Uriel’s home, they say they seized about $193,000 in cash, an automatic money counter, and ledgers and deposit slips tied to previous drug sales.

Sandoval-Uriel’s arrest and prosecution closes an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which targets national and regional drug operations.

In this case, the operation included the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security, state authorities and at least eight local law enforcement agencies, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

The other 11 defendants who have been convicted were given sentences ranging from 15 years to probation and time already served.

Federal sentences carry no chance of parole.

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