RICHMOND, Va. – A Richmond man was sentenced today to seven years in prison for his participation in a conspiracy to traffic approximately 18 kilograms of heroin into the Richmond area.
According to court documents, in June 2019, Special Agents with the Department of Homeland Security (HSI) seized approximately 24 kilograms of heroin, nearly 2 kilograms of fentanyl, and nearly 2 kilograms of methamphetamine from targets in Brownsville, Texas. The substances were packaged in five tractor trailer batteries and various quantities were headed for Chicago, Illinois and Richmond. Agents with HSI, working with Virginia State Police, coordinated a controlled delivery of the heroin which was destined to Richmond. Jose Zavala-Higareda, 29, was identified as the individual to whom the heroin headed for Richmond was to be delivered. The agents coordinating the controlled delivery and exchanged phone calls and text messages with Zavala-Higareda in advance of the batteries arriving in Richmond. Additionally, the agents and Zavala-Higareda identified a meeting location to deliver the drugs and when the agents arrived, Zavala-Higareda and another person received the batteries and paid for the heroin with $16,500 in cash. The heroin within the tractor trailer batteries weighed approximately 18.14 kilograms.
Law enforcement later conducted a search of Zavala-Higareda’s residence in Richmond and found him to be in possession of another $33,050 in cash, which was enough to purchase 11 additional ounces of heroin. Zavala-Higareda also possessed ledgers which were consistent with record-keeping in a drug trafficking conspiracy.
The case was investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), Operation Never Ending Story. The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division; and Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C., made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge M. Hannah Lauck.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen E. Anthony prosecuted the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:20-cr-15.