Phoenix Based Nationwide Drug Trafficker Sentenced

Earlier this month, the last of 17 defendants in a nationwide drug trafficking and money laundering cell, Ramon Llamas, 55, of Phoenix, Ariz., was sentenced by United States District Judge Diane J. Humetewa to 168 months’ imprisonment after he previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

Llamas’s sentencing followed other recent hearings in which Judge Humetewa imposed sentences of 97 months’ imprisonment for Donald Hamilton, 50, of Philadelphia, Pa., who was convicted at trial of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, and other offenses, and Orencio Ruelas, 55, of Phoenix, Ariz., who was sentenced to 235 months’ imprisonment after being convicted at trial of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and other offenses. Fourteen other defendants convicted in the case for various drug trafficking and money laundering crimes received sentences ranging from probation to 121 months’ imprisonment.

At trial, the United States proved that Llamas and his son, co-defendant Juan Llamas, obtained large quantities of marijuana and methamphetamine from Mexico and shipped it to customers throughout the United States. As part of t hese activities, Hamilton, a gate agent for a major domestic airline at the Philadelphia International Airport, met and introduced Juan Llamas to marijuana customers on the east coast in exchange for a portion of the proceeds from drug sales. Hamilton also used his position with the airlines to obtain “buddy passes” for Juan Llamas and others to fly to and from Phoenix and the east coast in aid of their drug trafficking activities. Hamilton himself used his position with the airlines to smuggle hundreds of thousands of dollars of drug money through airport security from Philadelphia to Phoenix.

Evidence at trial also showed that Ruelas, a family friend of Ramon Llamas, assisted customers in obtaining kilogram-quantities of methamphetamine from Mexico through the Llamas family on multiple occasions.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, who were assisted by the Glendale Police Department, the Peoria Police Department, the Phoenix Police Department, and the La Paz County Sheriff’s Office. The prosecution was handled by D.J. Pashayan, Todd Allison, and Krissa Lanham, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.