Former US Marine Angel Dominguez Ramirez Jr. was sentenced to over 16 years in federal prison after being found guilty of trafficking millions’ worth of cocaine from South America through the Mexican border. Ramirez Jr. holds both US and Mexican citizenship.

Ramirez Jr., originally from Guadalajara (some say Tamaulipas), Mexico, was sentenced Tuesday in San Diego, having previously pleaded guilty to International Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine and Money Laundering Conspiracy.

The prosecution revealed that Ramirez Jr. headed an organization called El Seguimiento 39 or El Seg 39 (also known as “The Company”). According to court documents, the ex-Marine built El Seg 39 by utilizing alliances with the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), the Cartel del Golfo (CDG), the Sinaloa Cartel, and Los Zetas, all notorious drug organizations.

Other filed documents also revealed that Ramirez Jr. was in contact with corrupt high-level politicians in Mexico to cull investigations on his organization’s activities. One such Mexican official was Ivan Reyes Arzate, a top federal police commander who worked with US law enforcement.

The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), in support of Operation Martillo, intercept more than 875 pounds of cocaine being smuggled in conjunction with a fishing boat while on routine patrol off the coast of Central America. A joint agency task force headquartered in Key West, Fla., conducts overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the eastern Pacific. (Photograph is not related to current case discussed) (Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Operation_Martillo_140927-N-AG657-114.jpg
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) and a US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), in support of Operation Martillo, intercept more than 875 pounds of cocaine being smuggled in conjunction with a fishing boat while on routine patrol off the coast of Central America. A joint agency task force headquartered in Key West, Fla., conducts overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the eastern Pacific. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cory Booth/Released) (Photograph is not related to the current case discussed) (Wikimedia Commons)

“Wiretap evidence demonstrates that he controlled every aspect of his organization,” wrote Assistant US Attorney Kyle Martin in a sentencing memorandum. “Dominguez did rely on co-conspirators to negotiate and control drug routes, find sources of supply, and prevent law enforcement from thwarting his trafficking, but ultimately he gave the orders to each of these co-conspirators.”

At its peak, El Seg 39 smuggled around 10 tons of cocaine into the United States mainland and transferred a minimum of $10 million of drug revenue to Mexico each month, according to estimates from the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents.

“Today’s sentencing of Dominguez is a strong example of HSI’s ongoing efforts to target and dismantle the most significant drug trafficking organizations in the world, whose multi-billion dollar criminal networks funnel drugs onto our streets and spread violence into our communities,” Special Agent in Charge of HSI San Diego Chad Plantz said.

“We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners in Mexico to root out the leaders of these insidious cartels, wherever they may be found, and bring them to justice.”

Being found guilty of conspiracy to drug trafficking faces a minimum of 10 years to life imprisonment, a $10 million fine, and a supervised release of 5 years. Money laundering charges bring custody of up to 10 years and a hefty $500,000 fine.

“Today’s sentence sends a message that the leaders of even the most powerful criminal organizations will be held accountable,” said US Attorney Randy Grossman, who thanked the prosecution and the other agencies involved in the case.

“This case is a perfect example of how DEA and our law enforcement partners work together to dismantle criminal organizations,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly S. Howe said.

Ramirez Jr., now 50 years old, will receive credit for the nearly six years he has already spent in custody. His investigation was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation tasked with identifying and dismantling prominent criminal groups that pose a threat to national security.

Ramirez Jr.’s Fall From Grace

Ramirez Jr.’s lawyer said that the ex-Marine’s decision to move to a life of crime came as he struggled to provide for himself after a 1994 car crash in North Carolina.

Ramirez Jr., who was driving the car, swerved to avoid a deer blocking the road, resulting in the car flipping off a bridge into the water. The accident took the lives of his two daughters, who were only 3 and 4 years old. He was also severely injured, which forced him to end his career with the Marines.

After struggling to find a job, Ramirez Jr. (then aged 27) agreed to deliver a cargo of marijuana from Mexico but eventually was arrested in Texas, where he spent about a year behind bars.

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He tried to start a small construction company with his brother-in-law but ultimately failed after the housing market crashed. In 2007, he moved with the rest of his family to Mexico to work with his cousin, who was an architect. There, he met individuals linked with illegal drug trafficking, which he saw could finally support his family.

“He has never made an excuse for the direction he took, only to say that after the accident, he stopped caring. He was numb,” Attorney Nancee Schwartz wrote in the memo. “He didn’t think or care about consequences because he had experienced the worst.”

Ramirez Jr. was arrested in Mexico in 2016 and was repatriated to San Diego for trial. In coordination with other counties, US law enforcement seized over 9,500 pounds of cocaine in Costa Rica, Mexico, Chicago, and Texas, along with more than $7 million in cash.