A 25-year veteran officer of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) who worked at Los Angeles International Airport was sentenced today to 151 months in federal prison for helping to move hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, heroin and marijuana from Southern California to Chicago as part of a narcotics distribution ring.
Manuel Porras Salas, 52, of Fontana, who is on indefinite suspension from the agency, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney, who said Salas “let his agency down and let his country down.”
Sayda Powery Orellana, 50, also of Fontana, who was Salas’ wife during the time of the narcotics trafficking conspiracy, also was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison for her role in the drug distribution ring.
After a five-day trial in December, a federal jury found Salas and Orellana guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of making false statements to law enforcement. The jury also found Orellana guilty of four additional money laundering counts.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Salas, who previously worked as a CBP officer at John Wayne and Ontario International airports, and Orellana obtained kilogram quantities of narcotics and provided them to a commercial truck driver who delivered the narcotics from California to Illinois. The defendants also laundered the hundreds of thousands of dollars they received in compensation by using bank accounts in the names of Orellana and others.
“This federal law enforcement officer and his then-wife were involved in the distribution of narcotics worth millions of dollars,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “They participated in a sophisticated trafficking operation that sent many pounds of dangerous and addictive drugs to the Midwest. While the narcotics distribution was not directly related to Officer Salas’ position with the government, we cannot tolerate any law enforcement official playing a role in illegal activity that threatens the well-being of American citizens.”
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission, and the overwhelming majority of CBP employees perform their duties with honor and distinction every day to keep our country safe,” said Denise R. Mar, Special Agent in Charge of CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility in Los Angeles. “Today’s lengthy sentence will serve notice to all government employees that integrity and public trust in our agency will be held to the highest standard. We will continue our efforts with our law enforcement partners to investigate CBP employees involved in criminal activity.”
“Today’s sentence reflects DEA’s commitment to not only destroying drug trafficking organizations, but also to rooting out police corruption,” said David J. Downing, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Los Angeles Field Office. “This sentence is indicative of the hard work by our federal law enforcement partners, as well as our financial investigations group’s dedicated agents.”
“As today’s sentence reflects, this case involves serious criminal conduct – the distribution of millions of dollars of narcotics and the deposit of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to accounts associated with Salas and Orellana,” said Ryan L. Korner, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Mr. Salas violated the trust placed in him by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the people of this country, for his own and his former wife’s personal financial gain.”
The conspiracy began to unravel on March 11, 2012, when a commercial truck driver was stopped in Gallup, New Mexico with approximately 260 kilograms of narcotics – including heroin, cocaine, and marijuana – that was valued at approximately $1.5 million. The commercial truck driver told law enforcement that he had worked with Salas and Orellana transporting narcotics to Chicago on multiple occasions, and that he would receive the drug sales proceeds and deposit them into various bank accounts at Salas and Orellana’s direction. The driver later pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. The driver’s telephone, telephone records, and banking records tied Salas to the narcotics distribution activities and money laundering. Salas and Orellana lied to law enforcement that they didn’t know the commercial truck driver and that the money deposited into Orellana’s bank account was intended for someone else.
This matter was investigated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the Drug Enforcement Administration and IRS Criminal Investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Joseph T. McNally of the Violent and Organized Crime Section and Aron Ketchel of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.
Submitted by Ciaran McEvoy, Public Information Officer