Man Sentenced For Role In Amtrak Drug-Trafficking Ring

By Keri Blakinger 09/17/18

The man helped direct the shipment of thousands of kilograms of heroin and cocaine from Los Angeles to Chicago. 

conductor standing at entrance of Amtrak train car

A California man was hit with a 35-year prison sentence last week for his role in overseeing an international drug-running ring on Amtrak train lines, according to court records.

Edgar Roque headed up the cocaine-dealing crew for at least six years, shipping thousands of kilograms of illicit drugs from Mexico across the United States.

“This is criminal conduct of the worst kind,” federal prosecutor Paul H. Tzur wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Edgar Roque’s leadership role directing the mass movement of heroin and cocaine into the Chicago area and elsewhere showed that he had absolutely no regard for the safety and well-being of addicts and the communities into which he delivered the drugs.”

With at least 20 confederates—including men with names like “Lil Pimp” and “Traps”—Roque hauled in wholesale amounts of heroin and cocaine from cartel-level suppliers in Mexico, authorities said.

After getting the drugs to California, Roque would have them shipped to Chicago where his accomplices would pick them up at Chicago’s Union Station and disperse them to stash houses across the Windy City. 

After off-loading the goods, the lieutenants in Roque’s criminal circuit would hop on a commercial airline and fly the cash proceeds west, typically carrying $150,00 at a time.

A multi-agency task force probed the underbelly of the organization for years, under the aegis of an investigation known as “Operation Derailed.”

Months after the 32-year-old pleaded guilty to drug and money laundering charges, a federal judge on Tuesday sent him to prison. A number of Roque’s associates have either pleaded guilty or already been sentenced.

Phillip Diaz netted more than 20 years in prison for helping ensure delivery of the drugs and maintaining bank accounts to launder the proceeds, prosecutors said.

Anthony Koon of Colorado got nine years in prison for delivering almost 20 kilograms of heroin valued at around $1 million. Gerardo Sanchez of California helped launder the profits and accepted delivery of heroin to a Tinsley Park hotel room, which netted him a 17.5-year sentence. 

Jorge Luis Ochoa-Canela was sentenced to five years behind bars for moving massive amounts of money back to suppliers. And Amtrak employee Roy Griffin netted an 18-month sentence for scheming to steal a package of cocaine arriving into Union Station. 

Four other defendants have pleaded guilty and are scheduled for sentencing before the end of the year. 

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.