RALEIGH, N.C. - The leader of a North Carolina drug
trafficking organization was sentenced to more than 21
years in prison Tuesday, following an investigation by U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland
Security Investigations (HSI).
Jose Manuel Hernandez-Iturralde, 28, was sentenced by
United States District Judge Malcolm J. Howard for his role
in a drug trafficking organization that operated in North
Carolina from 2000 through 2010.
"Our agents systematically identified the members of
this criminal organization and successfully targeted them
for arrest and prosecution," said Brock D. Nicholson,
special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. "HSI remains
committed to working with our local partners, in this case
the Lee County Sheriff's Department, to dismantle the
criminal organizations smuggling narcotics and committing
associated crimes throughout North Carolina and the rest of
the United States." Nicholson oversees HSI activities
in Georgia and the Carolinas.
On Feb. 16, 2011, a federal grand jury returned a criminal
indictment that charged Hernandez with participating in a
drug trafficking conspiracy, in violation of Title 21,
United States Code, Section 846. On December 5, 2011,
Hernandez pleaded guilty to that offense.
The investigation revealed that since 2000, Hernandez and
other co-conspirators maintained several residences in
Wake, Randolph and Guilford counties to store, process and
distribute cocaine, as well as to count, package and stash
the drug proceeds from the cocaine distribution. Since the
beginning of the HSI investigation in 2009, approximately
40 members of this drug trafficking organization have been
prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office in
Raleigh and sentenced accordingly. All told, Hernandez and
his drug trafficking organization were responsible for
importing and distributing approximately 6,000 kilograms of
cocaine in North Carolina.