One year after an intricate investigation into a narcotics ring, a supplier from Bear pleads guilty to drug charges.
A man from Bear, Delaware has pled guilty to drug distribution charges following an investigation last year that led to the indictment of eight individuals involved in a large-scale drug operation with ties to Mexico.
Ariel Vergara, 49, of Bear, pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin in federal court Tuesday, according to Charles M. Oberly III, U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware.
In October, Vergara pled not guilty to the charges in his indictment, according to court documents.
“This plea represents a significant achievement for law enforcement in Delaware,” Oberly said in a statement.
“With the help of the DEA, HSI and our HIDTA partners across the entire Delaware Valley, we were able to dismantle a significant group of drug traffickers with ties back to Mexico.”
The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) investigation, known as “Operation Bear Trap,” was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration Group 41 and several other police agencies across Delaware and Pennsylvania.
DEA Group 41 is part of the New Castle County HIDTA, a collaborative effort established in January 2015 among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to provide a strategic approach toward the reduction of drug trafficking in target areas throughout the county.
“Operation Bear Trap” is one of several HIDTA investigations in Delaware that have led to the arrests of individuals allegedly involved in drug operations.
“Today’s conviction sends a clear message that narcotics trafficking in Delaware will not be tolerated and the repercussions will be severe,” stated Special Agent in Charge Gary Tuggle.
“As a result of this investigation, and efforts by both federal and local law enforcement the final chapter of this Narcotic Trafficking Organization is being written.”
During the investigation, five phones were wiretapped, and officers seized more than $1 million, about 2.5 kilograms of cocaine, about one kilogram of crystal methamphetamine and nine firearms.
The initial investigation of this case began in the fall of 2014, according to court documents. Police were helped by an informant who agreed to purchase cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and heroin from the sources of supply.
The informant had pending charges in Chester County, Pa., for Possession with Intent to Distribute cocaine and agreed to cooperate on the agreement it would be taken into consideration at the time of sentencing, according to court documents.
Beginning in May, Delaware courts authorized 30 days of wiretapping of the cell phones of Vergara and his partners Sergio Flores-Lopez and Juan Carlos Segura-Lorzo. These authorizations were extended a few times as the defendants stopped using their phones.
In June, police arranged a controlled buy with the informant. Court documents detail several conversations and transactions that took place on June 25th between the informant and the defendants.
The informant called Flores and requested eight ounces of methamphetamine during a recorded conversation. Flores said he would contact his supplier—Vergara—and call back.
According to court documents, Flores asked Vergara how soon he could have, “Half a guy of the one you had told me about?” When Vergara asked for clarification Flores said, “Of the…for the “cubas.”
Vergara then maked arrangements to transport the supply to Flores in Hockessin within 45 minutes with the help of Juan Rosas-Guadarrama, who he calls ‘Pitucho.’
Mobile surveillance then followed Vergara, ‘Pitucho,’ Segura and Flores’ vehicles while tapping into their cell phones, according to court documents. Meanwhile, the informant was provided $7,000 to purchase the drug supply.
The informant and the defendants headed to Lantana Square Shopping Center in Hockessin.
Flores entered the informant’s vehicle parked in the shopping center, and they drove to an adjacent liquor store to conduct the transaction—with the drugs stored in a McDonalds cup—according to court documents.
The cup was handed over to the officers, who sent it back to the DEA Wilmington office for testing.
Investigators then learned Flores, ‘Pitucho,’ Segura and another male made plans to meet at a Wawa on Limestone Road in Wilmington, where they say a hand to hand exchange occurred, according to the court documents.
The investigation led to the defendant’s arrest in August and indictment in Septemeber, to which they pled not guilty to various drug charges.
This week, Vergara admitted he obtained drugs from Mexico so he and his partners could sell them in Wilmington, the greater New Castle County area and southern Chester County, Pa. The investigation also revealed Vergara attempted to obtain drugs from sources in other states, including California.
“Operation Bear Trap was a model of inter-agency cooperation to take on a large-scale drug dealing operation,” said Chester County District Attorney Hogan in a statement. “Working separately, these law enforcement agencies are very good. But working as a team, we are unstoppable.”
Vergara faces anywhere from five to 40 years in prison, a $5 million fine and four years of supervised released following his prison sentence.
His sentencing is scheduled for Aug.17 by the Honorable Sue L. Robinson of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.
“This guilty plea marks a great victory in our multi-agency effort against illegal narcotics trafficking in Delaware,” said Gregory C. Nevano, acting special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia.
“When we dismantle and cripple the organizations behind those drugs, we make an indelible impact on public safety in our communities.”
In addition to Vergara, the following eight individuals were indicted:
• Leticia Beltran, 32, Wilmington
• Luis Bustos, 35, Wilmington
• Richard Cephas, 51, Wilmington
• Sergio Flores-Lopez, 41, Wilmington
• Jamal Maddox, 31, Wilmington
• Miguel Martinez, 64, Wilmington
• Juan Rosas-Guadarrama, 24, New Castle
• Juan Carlos Segura-Lorzo, 25, Wilmington