A Douglas native is one of three men sentenced in a federal court this month for their roles in a drug trafficking operation that shipped millions of dollars of smuggled cocaine and marijuana through Arizona to states like Michigan and New York from 1991 to 2005.
Arturo “Artie” Elias Machado, 51, was sentenced Feb. 12 to 70 months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons followed by four years of supervised release for the sale or distribution of large quantities of marijuana. He pleaded guilty in August 2019 as part of a negotiated plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Machado, a U.S. citizen who graduated from Douglas High School, was indicted in 2005 by a federal grand jury in Michigan. He was living in Agua Prieta when taken into custody in 2018.
In court documents, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Winiger noted Machado handled large money drops for cousins Manuel Leobardo Paredes-Machado and Marco Antonio Paredes-Machado whose prolific drug trafficking operation in Agua Prieta and Nogales involved “millions of dollars” dating from 1991.
“Generally, Arturo Machado helped to coordinate Paredes-Machado’s marijuana business in the United States,” Winiger noted to U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts of the Eastern District of Michigan. “Arturo Machado accepted payments on behalf of the conspiracy and made decisions as to who in the conspiracy would receive marijuana on credit.”
In 2002, the activities of the Paredes-Machado trafficking ring came under further scrutiny by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) when nearly $250,000 cash was found in a vehicle during a traffic stop in Iowa. The money turned out to be proceeds of marijuana sales in Michigan that were headed to Mexico to purchase more drugs.
Then in 2003, the money trail led the DEA to a semi-trailer truck in Michigan that was carrying nearly two tons of marijuana bales from Tucson. Federal authorities in Michigan eventually indicted 26 people connected to the operation, while dozens more were prosecuted in other courts, including state and federal cases in Arizona.
The two ringleaders were among the 26 defendants, and earlier this month Marco Antonio Paredes-Machado, now 55, was sentenced by Judge Roberts to 22 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. The sentence included a second federal case in which he admitted conspiring to distribute more than five tons of cocaine.
Marco Antonio Paredes-Machado was arrested by Mexican authorities in 2011 at the request of the U.S. Embassy. He was subjected in Mexico to physical interrogation efforts, including water-boarding, which elicited information about several key Sinaloa Cartel members.
Court records show Manuel Leobardo Paredes-Machado was shot to death in 2004 in Agua Prieta. At the time he was wanted by authorities in Arizona where he absconded after posting $350,000 bail in a case involving the trafficking of 20 tons of cocaine.
Related article: Former Agua Prieta cartel leader agrees to long prison sentence
The third member of the operation sentenced by Roberts this month is Julio Cesar “Guero” Lamadrid, a Mexican national who arranged the shipment of large quantities of marijuana, including the truck seized by the DEA in Michigan in 2003.
Lamadrid, 51, was indicted in 2005 but didn’t have his first court appearance until 2017. In July 2019, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
Sentencing guidelines called for a minimum 10-year sentence, but at a Feb. 3 hearing Judge Roberts imposed a sentence of time served followed by two years of supervised release after it was revealed Lamadrid underwent two surgeries for bladder cancer while in custody. He faces deportation as a result of his criminal activity.
After this month’s sentencings, only two of the 26 Michigan cases remain open, one for Jorge Alberto Lamadrid-Carranza and the other involving Saul “Cesar” Lamadrid-Carranza.
Jorge Lamadrid-Carranza was arrested on a warrant in 2008, then posted a $10,000 bond in Michigan which allowed him to return to Arizona pending trial. He later pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute nearly four tons of marijuana from 2001 to 2004. But in August 2009, Lamadrid-Carranza became a federal fugitive when he failed to appear in a Michigan court for sentencing.
Authorities in Arizona are also looking for Jorge Lamadrid-Carranza in at least two other prosecution cases and have offered a reward for information leading to his arrest. Tipsters can remain anonymous by calling 88-CRIME at 520-882-7463.
Meanwhile, Saul Lamadrid-Carranza have never been taken into custody on his 2005 indictment. He may have been died in 2014, but the Michigan case remains open.