Ana Bella Sanchez-Rios, the former owner and operator of a Martinsville business used to launder more than $4.3 million in profits for an international drug cartel, was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court to 96 months in federal prison. Sanchez-Rios laundered the funds for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), a Mexican-based criminal organization considered by the Department of Justice to be one of the most dangerous transnational organizations in the world. Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar, Special Agent in Charge Jarod A. Forgot of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Division, and Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Washington, D.C. Field Office announced the sentence.
“When individuals launder money for a drug cartel, they play a critical role for the organization by concealing and transferring illegally-obtained funds, which perpetuates the cartel’s illegal activity and the scourge of the narcotics the cartel pedals,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bubar. “Money laundering investigations can be particularly difficult, and I’m proud of the hard work of our federal and state law enforcement partners in bringing Sanchez-Rios to justice.”
“Drug cartels like CJNG perpetrate unspeakable violence across the globe and drive the spread of deadly drugs like fentanyl and heroin,” said Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Washington Division. “We are committed to working with our partners to shut down these violent organizations in our area, often by tracking their illicit proceeds and disrupting these organizations at their bottom line. Today, these criminals’ addiction to money and greed has met its consequence.”
Sanchez-Rios, 48, was indicted in March 2019 along with 12 members of CJNG on a variety of federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges. In June 2020, Sanchez-Rios pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and operating a business that transmitted criminally derived funds.
Sanchez-Rios owned and operated Bella’s Tortilla & Meat Market, a business that contracted with Intermex Wire Transfer, LLC. Sanchez-Rios admitted that from 2016 through 2018, she used the business to launder the drug trafficking proceeds on behalf of CJNG. Sanchez-Rios’ role was to receive U.S. currency from multiple individuals working for the CJNG, which she knew where the drug trafficking proceeds and derived from a criminal offense. Sanchez-Rios then wired that money to individuals in Mexico. The defendant conducted wire transfers in small amounts and falsified and fabricated the names and addresses of the senders in order to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of the funds.
In total, between May 10, 2016, and September 11, 2018, Sanchez-Rios transferred or caused to be transferred $4,394,959 in the proceeds of drug trafficking via Intermex from Bella’s Tortilla & Meat Market in Martinsville to individuals in Mexico.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations, the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, and the Virginia State Police. Assistant United States Attorney Sean Welsh is prosecuting the case for the United States.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
Tuesday night fire ruled arson – occupant charged
On Tuesday, March 2, 2021, at approximately 9:45 pm, the Front Royal Police Department responded to a reported domestic situation located at 394 Cherrydale Avenue in the Town of Front Royal.
Upon arrival, officers noted the residence was filled with smoke and quickly discovered a fire had been extinguished prior to their arrival. Officers requested assistance from the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Front Royal Police Criminal Investigations Division.
An investigation by the Criminal Investigations Division and the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire was caused by an act of arson.
As a result of the investigation, and after consultation with the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, Briant Taylor, a 38-year-old resident of the home, has been charged in connection with the fire incident. Mr. Taylor has been charged with a single felony count in violation of Virginia Code §18.2-77-Burning or destroying a dwelling house. Mr. Taylor was transported to the Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where he was ordered to be held without bond.
The court date set for this offense is March 18, 2021, at 9:00 am in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. No further details can be released in this matter due to the pending nature of this investigation.
Anyone with additional information regarding this incident is asked to contact Fire Marshal G. Maiatico at 540-636-3830 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Detective M.P. Gallagher with the Front Royal Police Department at 540-636-2208 or email@example.com
Frederick County, Winchester investigate rash of catalytic converter thefts
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Winchester Police Department are investigating several incidents of catalytic converter thefts from vehicles in the region. The incidents began in January, 2021 and have continued through the end of February, 2021 and have occurred in residential areas, businesses, and churches. The Sheriff’s Office is investigating 7 reported incidents with 19 catalytic converters stolen, and the Winchester P.D. is also investigating 7 incidents with 16 catalytic converters stolen.
It is uncertain if the incidents are related. The incidents in the City have occurred South of Jubal Early Drive within a two-mile radius. In one incident in the City of Winchester, video footage captured a gold minivan occupied by a white male on the night of the theft. Images of that van have been attached to this release. The incidents in Frederick County have been widely scattered, occurring at businesses, mostly, which had multiple vehicles available to the suspect (s).
The removal of catalytic converters takes time and requires the use of a reciprocating saw. They are then sold through third party online markets or taken to scrapyards. The interest in the vehicle part is due to it containing precious metals. The thefts are a nationwide problem.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Investigator J. Bowman at the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office (540) 504-6527 or Detective Thurman at the Winchester Police Department 540-545-4704. Callers can remain anonymous by using the P3 tip app or by calling 540-665-8477.
Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force arrest three Maryland men for felony drug and firearm violations
On Tuesday, March 2, 2021, the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force conducted an operation that led to the arrest of three Maryland men for various felony drug and firearm related charges. Jerrod Allen Baker, 23, of Baltimore, MD, was arrested for one count of Possession with the Intent to Distribute a Schedule I/II Controlled Substance, one count of Distribution of a Schedule I/II Controlled Substance, and one count of Transporting more than one ounce of a Schedule I/II Controlled Substance into the Commonwealth. Robert Dwayne Carter Smith Jr, 18, of Baltimore, MD, and Andre Maurice Bell Jr, 19, of Baltimore, MD, were arrested for one count of Possession with the intent to Distribute a Schedule I/II Controlled Substance, one count of Distribution of a Schedule I/II Controlled Substance, one count of Transporting more than one ounce of a Schedule I/II Controlled Substance into the Commonwealth, one count of Possession of a Firearm while in Possession of a Schedule I/II Controlled Substance, and Conspiracy.
As part of an ongoing investigation, an undercover Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force officer contacted Jerrod Allen Baker and arranged to purchase an amount of crack cocaine. Baker agreed to travel from Baltimore, MD to Strasburg, VA to deliver the crack cocaine. When Baker arrived at the prearranged location he was arrested. Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force officers seized approximately 57 grams of crack cocaine with a street value of $2,600.00 from Baker.
Additionally, an undercover Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force officer contacted Robert Dwayne Carter Smith Jr and arranged to purchase an amount of fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid fifty to one hundred times more potent than morphine. Two milligrams of fentanyl is potentially deadly for the average person. Smith agreed to deliver the fentanyl to the undercover officer in Strasburg, VA. When Smith arrived at the prearranged location he and Andre Maurice Bell Jr were arrested. Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force officers seized approximately 500 capsules of fentanyl with a street value of $15,000.00, one firearm, and $1,800.00 that was in Smith and Bell’s possession at the time of their arrest.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force is comprised of law enforcement personnel from Clarke, Frederick, Page and Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Departments, Front Royal, Luray, Strasburg, and Winchester Police Departments and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Culpeper Field Office.
Sheriff’s Office seeks information on man sought for assault on woman morning of March 1
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has released details of the Monday morning search for a man being sought for the reported assault of a county woman. That release states:
“On March 1, 2021, Warren County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from the 100 block of Barnett Road. The caller stated a male previously known to her had broken into her residence and assaulted her. Deputies responded to the residence where the suspect, identified as William Edward Jenkins, 40 years old, had fled on foot before arrival. Deputies and K9 teams from Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police searched the area with no results.
“At this time William Edward Jenkins is wanted for §18.2-57.2 (Assault & Battery against a family or household member), additional charges are pending. Warren County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank Front Royal Police Department, Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police for their assistance throughout the investigation.
“Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of William Edward Jenkins can contact Warren County Sheriff’s Office at 540-635-4128.”
(From a WCSO press release)
State Police investigate Culpeper Sheriff’s Office fatal shooting
At the request of Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins, the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Culpeper Field Office is investigating the deputy-involved shooting.
At approximately 9:40 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office responded to a request for a welfare check on an individual who resides within the 12000 block of Horseshoe Drive. When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the residence, they encountered Donald Francis Hairston, 44, in an already agitated state.
Within minutes of the deputies’ arrival, Hairston ran indoors and barricaded himself inside the residence. Despite the deputies’ attempts to communicate with Hairston in an effort to de-escalate the situation, Hairston exited the residence armed with a gun. He discharged the firearm and then pointed the firearm at the deputies. A deputy fired and struck Hairston, who succumbed to his injuries at the scene.
Hairston’s remains will be transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner for examination and autopsy.
No deputies or other persons were injured during the incident.
The investigation remains ongoing at this time.
Warren County Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit assists in arrest after driver flees vehicle
On February 22, 2021, at approximately 06:41 PM, members of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Special Problems and Drug Enforcement Unit attempted to stop a vehicle for speeding on Stonewall Jackson Highway. The suspect vehicle failed to yield leading to a pursuit that was terminated on Gooney Manor Loop. After the pursuit was terminated, the suspect vehicle continued to drive recklessly, striking a Sheriff’s Office vehicle.
Due to the reckless and dangerous disregard for persons and property, the pursuit was then reinitiated continuing onto Bentonville Road, where the suspect lost control and wrecked at 07:02 PM. The driver fled the vehicle on foot and the passenger was apprehended at the scene. Warren County Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit consisting of Master Deputy C. Anderson and M. Griffith, along with their canine partners Rooster and Gator, apprehended the driver after a short track where the driver was found hiding in a nearby creek.
The driver, Garland Turner Jr., age 28 was charged with Possession of Schedule I/II, felony eluding, felony hit and run, assault on a law enforcement officer, and driving suspended.
The vehicle owner and passenger, Alicia Knott, age 21 was charged with Possession of Schedule I/II and obstruction of justice.
No one was injured during the incident.