LOS ANGELES, Calif. – A man and his ex-wife, both Fontana residents, were sentenced to over 12 ½ years in federal prison after federal officials uncovered a narcotics distribution ring.
Manuel Porras Salas, 52, is a 25-year veteran officer of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) who worked at the Los Angeles International, John Wayne, and Ontario International airports. He and his then-wife, Sayda Powery Orellana, 50, were sentenced in a federal court on Thursday, April 18, 2019, to 151 months in prison for helping to move hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana from Southern California to Chicago. In court, the judge said that Salas, “let his agency down and let his country down.”
The evidence presented in court during the 5-day trial indicated that Salas and Orellana obtained the large quantities of narcotics and provided them to a commercial truck driver who delivered them from California to Illinois. In addition, the defendants also laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars that they received in compensation by using bank accounts belonging to Orellana and others.
“This federal law enforcement officer and his then-wife were involved in the distribution of narcotics worth millions of dollars,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “They participated in a sophisticated trafficking operation that sent many pounds of dangerous and addictive drugs to the Midwest. While the narcotics distribution was not directly related to Officer Salas’ position with the government, we cannot tolerate any law enforcement official playing a role in illegal activity that threatens the well-being of American citizens.”
On March 11, 2012, the commercial truck driver was stopped in Gallup, New Mexico with around 260 kilograms of narcotics including heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. The narcotics were valued at around $1.5 million. The commercial truck driver told law enforcement that he was working with the couple transporting the narcotics on multiple occasions. He also told authorities that he would receive the money and deposit it in bank accounts that Salas or Orellana told him to deposit it in. He later pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Although phone records and banking records tied the two to the commercial truck driver, the couple lied about knowing him. They also stated that the money deposited in Orellana’s account was intended for someone else.
The federal jury found the two guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of making false statements to law enforcement. The jury also found Orellana guilty of four additional money laundering counts.
“As today’s sentence reflects, this case involves serious criminal conduct – the distribution of millions of dollars of narcotics and the deposit of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to accounts associated with Salas and Orellana,” said Ryan L. Korner, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation Los Angeles Field Office. “Mr. Salas violated the trust placed in him by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the people of this country, for his own and his former wife’s personal financial gain.”
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