PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A drug trafficker was sentenced for his role in a massive Mexican cocaine seizure in along the parkway west in 2011.
Reynaldo Lopez Salinas received six years in jail, plus five years suspended release for his role in the drug bust.
Federal investigators say he was one of 10 defendants arrested in 2011 when an 18-wheeler, on its way to Plum Borough, was discovered with $4 million worth of cocaine.
Salinas who is from North Carolina, stayed at a Monroeville hotel while setting up the drug delivery, according to the indictment.
Detectives say the 18-wheeler, which was registered in California, had a compartment in its trailer to conceal the drugs.
“Sometimes,” said an undercover agent, “the cocaine will be laid down in this trap or hidden compartment. This piece of metal would be laid on top of the kilograms and the piece of metal behind you would be farther away on top of that. And they’d be bolted down with these special bolts.”
The rig was on its way to a shed on a farm on New Texas Road in Plum.
Inside was 20 kilograms of relatively pure powdered cocaine and $450,000 in cash. A number of SUVs were seized as well.
Some of the drugs needed up in Penn Hills.
“Before we found them, there was a some surveillance involving a D.E.A. plane and we traced the cocaine from Mexico to North Carolina to western Pennsylvania,” said U. S. Attorney David Hickton. “And I said at that time and we feel today that we had interdicted a large cocaine ring that was bringing drugs into our district and we were making this district not friendly to people who want to do that.”
Salinas and 13 others pleaded guilty Monday to the crime.
Only a few others have yet to be sentenced.
Investigators says they’ve learned something from this case.
“Mexico is a huge supply for cocaine and other drugs,” said Hickton. “But I think it’s not telling a secret to say the highways are frequently the arteries of drug supply into our district.”
Salinas could have faced 10 years in prison, but Senior Federal Judge Maurice Cohill said he believed the six years plus five years supervised release was fair, given Salinas’ prior record, which includes a stalking conviction at age 19, and drunk driving charges.
However, prosecutors are considering appealing that sentence, hoping for the longer one.