Ringleader in Greenlee 100-pound cocaine bust takes a plea, sentenced to 12.5 years

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The ringleader of a group of four men accused of attempting to smuggle 100 pounds of cocaine through Greenlee County pleaded guilty and was sentenced in Graham County Superior Court to 12.5 years in prison.

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

SAFFORD – The alleged ringleader in Greenlee County’s 100-pound cocaine bust, Jose Louis Herrera, 41, of Tucson, pleaded guilty May 9 to transportation of a narcotic drug for sale and was sentenced to a stipulated term of 12.5 years in prison.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Greenlee County: Jose Herrera pleaded guilty to transportation of a narcotic drug for sale and was sentenced to a stipulated term of 12.5 years.

Herrera’s hearing was held in Graham County Superior Court and was presided over by Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson.

A second member of the four suspects arrested and charged with smuggling the cocaine, Rafael Teran, 47, of Sahuarita, was found guilty April 20 of all counts against him after previously having a hung jury. He was found guilty of transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, conspiracy to commit transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of a narcotic drug for sale, and misconduct involving weapons. He faces a possible prison term of between 4-16 years and is scheduled to be sentenced this upcoming week. His case was presided over by Cochise County Superior Court Judge Tom Conlogue, who will also be the sentencing judge.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Greenlee County: The re-trial against Rafael Teran ended with a guilty verdict on all counts.

Teran is the owner of the “heat” vehicle SUV that was traveling along with a semi truck that held 100 pounds of cocaine. Greenlee County Sheriff Tim Sumner and Greenlee County Chief Deputy Eric Ellison pulled over the semi and SUV, respectively, while they traveled along a lonely stretch of State Route 78 in the wee hours of Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. Teran was charged with two counts of transportation of a narcotic drug for sale and possession of a weapon during a drug offense. The driver of the semi truck, Herrera, was charged with transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of a weapon during a drug offense, possession of a weapon by a prohibited possessor, conspiracy, and participating in a criminal syndicate.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Greenlee County: Ruben Cisneros was found not guilty of all charges.

While Teran is the owner of the SUV, he was located as a passenger in the semi-truck. Ruben Cisneros, 47, of Tucson, was driving the SUV. He was found not guilty by a Greenlee County Jury on Dec. 8, 2017, on charges of conspiracy to commit transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of a narcotic drug for sale, and misconduct involving a firearm. He was represented by Safford attorney Rebecca Johnson.

Cisneros was driving the SUV with Adrian Cardenas, 30, of Tucson. The vehicle was stopped for speeding on State Route 78 by Greenlee County Chief Deputy Eric Ellison. A firearm and a small amount of marijuana were discovered in the SUV by Ellison. While searching the SUV, Ellison also found an identification card belonging to one of the men in the semi, which had been stopped by Greenlee County Sheriff Tim Sumner for a license plate infraction. The marijuana was found on Cardenas, but the firearm, allegedly belonging to one of the two men in the semi who owns the SUV, was found in the center console. 

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Greenlee County: Adrian Cardenas pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

Cisneros and Cardenas initially denied being involved with the semi. That did not wash as Ellison had found the ID belonging to one of the men in the semi. Sumner found that the semi-truck driver had a suspended driver’s license and was a prohibited possessor of a firearm. A subsequent search of the semi-truck yielded roughly 100 pounds of cocaine, which the men were allegedly transporting to Texas.

On Nov. 6, 2017, Cardenas, who was represented by Safford attorney David Griffith, pleaded guilty to possession of a narcotic drug for sale in a plea agreement that dismissed four other charges, including possession of a weapon during a drug offense, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and conspiracy. While the plea was eligible for a probation term, Judge Stauffer sentenced Cardenas to 7 years in an Arizona State Prison facility.

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