Drug dealer 'El Gato' sentenced to 15 years

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Local,Maryland,Crime,Scott McCabe,Prince Georges County

A Hyattsville man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for smuggling more than 330 pounds of cocaine into suburban Maryland.

Edwin Galvez-Berganza, 30, was a leader of a Guatemalan drug ring that smuggled the cocaine in candy or inside trailer hitches. Galvez-Berganza, also known as El Gato, is one of half-dozen conspirators arrested in the more than five year probe.

William Winter, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, said the investigation identified the international drug trafficking operation and dismantled their criminal operations in the United States.

"Let there be no mistake, drug trafficking organizations are reaching right here into our homes and communities in Maryland, and HSI remains committed to working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to combat these criminal organizations that want to profit from poisoning our children and destroying our way of life," Winter said in a news release.

According to charging documents filed federal court in Greenbelt, Galvez-Berganza had the cocaine flown from Guatemala, driven to Connecticut and then hidden in trailer hitches and hauled from Connecticut to Hyattsville.

When the trailer hitches arrived, Galvez-Berganza and his gang would use a saw to open them and remove the cocaine from inside. Each hitch contained about 8 pounds of cocaine.

In July 2006, federal agents conducted a controlled purchase of cocaine from Galvez-Berganza. He agreed to provide a hitch's worth of cocaine for $133,000.

The agents provided a confidential source with $95,000 for the initial payment. The cash was inside the side panel of a Honda Accord, which was delivered to Galvez-Berganza. He drove away with the car, but abandoned the car and law enforcement officials recovered the $95,000, charging documents said. The documents don't explain why Galvez-Berganza abandoned the money-filled car.

Five months later, law enforcement officials arrested two conspirators as they hauled about 45 pounds of cocaine to Galvez-Berganza.

Galvez-Berganza fled the United States to avoid arrest, but continued to ship packages of cocaine from Guatemala to Silver Spring, authorities said.

In all, Galvez-Berganza is responsible for the distribution of more than 330 pounds of cocaine.

Six people have pleaded guilty for the operation and have been sentenced up to 10 years in prison.

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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Scott McCabe

Staff Writer - Crime
The Washington Examiner