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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Middle District of Tennessee

For Immediate Release

September 12, 2012

Jerry E. Martin, United States Attorney

Contact: J. Alex Little

Arizona Man Convicted for Role in Drug Conspiracy

Eight Co-Defendants Pleaded Guilty In Case Involving More Than 100 Kilograms of Cocaine

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – September 20, 2012 - Miguel Padilla, 38, of Phoenix, Arizona, was convicted by a federal jury on Monday, September 17, 2012, of conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, announced Jerry E. Martin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on a separate charge against Padilla of carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking offense.

Earlier, eight co-defendants pleaded guilty to participating in the same conspiracy, including:

  • Jose Danial Villagomez, 23, of Mexico;
  • Fredy Vasquez, 24, of Mexico;
  • Vincente Arellano-Garcia, 28, of Mexico;
  • David Montoya, 23, of Mexico;
  • Hipolito Brito, 44, of Mexico,
  • Alicio Mendoza-Martinez, 30, of Mexico;
  • Martin Pinela, 46, of Yuma, Arizona; and
  • Alfredo Hernandez, 41, of Nashville.

The guilty verdict and guilty pleas stem from a conspiracy to transport more than 100 kilograms of cocaine from Arizona to Middle Tennessee in 2009 and 2010, using hidden compartments in vehicles and tractor trailers. The members of the conspiracy then returned millions of dollars in drug proceeds back to the drug suppliers in Mexico using similar covert methods.

The government's investigation began in June 2010 when officers with the Cheatham County, Tenn. Sheriff's Department discovered approximately $1 million hidden in the walls of the cab of a tractor-trailer during a traffic stop on Interstate 40. That seizure enabled the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to identify members of the conspiracy operating out of a rural home in Lascassas, Tennessee.

Agents later executed a search warrant at that location, and recovered nine kilograms of cocaine, 12 firearms, including semi-automatic rifles, such as an AK-47 and an AR-15 and nearly $100,000 in cash. Padilla and three of the co-defendants were arrested at that location. Agents subsequently made arrests at three other locations near Nashville, recovering additional stashes of cocaine and firearms, as well as a tractor trailer with concealed compartments.

During the trial, witnesses testified that Padilla traveled from Phoenix to Nashville to pick up approximately $300,000 in drug proceeds and that, while Padilla was in Tennessee, the conspirators received a shipment of 12 kilograms of cocaine. Witnesses also testified that throughout the course of the conspiracy, more than 100 kilograms of cocaine were delivered to the group's base of operations in Lascassas, Tenn. and that these drugs were redistributed to drug dealers in the Nashville area.

As a result of the convictions, all defendants face a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to a life sentence, as well as a $10 million fine. Padilla is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell on December 14, 2012.

This investigation was conducted by the DEA and the Cheatham Co. Sheriff's Office with the assistance of the ATF and the 20th Judicial District Drug Task Force. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alex Little and Brent Hannafan.