The discovery of a $2.1 million drug trafficking conspiracy led to three individuals being sentenced Friday, the leader of which was an illegal immigrant who had reentered the U.S. after already being deported.
The three criminals were hit with a bevy of charges for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute over 100 kilograms of methamphetamine in the Kansas City and northwest Missouri areas, a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri says.
The individual who had already been deported, Juan Guzman, 41, was the apparent ring leader of the conspiracy and received a sentence of 26 years and eight months in federal prison without parole. Guzman was residing in Kansas City, Missouri at the time of his arrest, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Guzman’s co-conspirators, Mexican citizen Maria De La Cruz Nava, 26, and John Paul Gnat, 32 of St. Joseph, received federal prison sentences of 15 years and 11 years, respectively, without the possibility of parole.
Guzman and Nava were found guilty at trial in November of 2021 for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine over a nearly four-year span from January 2015 to November 2018. The pair was also found guilty of a money laundering conspiracy during the same time period and of “possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking.”
In addition to these charges, Guzman was found guilty of illegally reentering the United States after having been deported. It is unclear when Guzman was deported or how he was able to reenter the country.
“Guzman was the supplier for the drug-trafficking conspiracy, selling multiple kilograms of methamphetamine on a regular basis, sometimes daily, to multiple co-conspirators who then distributed methamphetamine to others,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
The court found Guzman directly responsible for distributing at least 45 kilograms of methamphetamine and ordered him to forfeit $954,000 to the government, the press release says. The jury found Nava assisted Guzman in his drug trafficking and money laundering, and ordered her to forfeit $15,000 to the government.
Guzman, Nava and several others involved in the drug ring were arrested at Guzman’s residence in October of 2018. During the arrest, authorities seized two rifles, five handguns including one with an extended drum magazine, ammunition, 688 grams of methamphetamine and cash. Officers also found drug paraphernalia, including “drug ledgers and drug packaging” at Guzman’s residence.
Gnat’s case didn’t go to trial as he pleaded guilty in June of 2020 to his role in the drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracies. The St. Joseph man admitted to supplying methamphetamine to “several individuals on a daily basis, sometimes pound quantities twice a day, for several months,” the press release says.
Others found guilty of participating in the conspiracy include Mexico citizen Luis Carlos Ramos, 27, who was living in Kansas City at the time, and Jacob Dale Walsh, 36, of Denton, Kansas. The co-defendants received federal sentences earlier this year of 16 years and eight months and 13 years and seven months, respectively, without parole.
Co-defendants also include Laos citizen Chanthacone Senthavy, 48, who was living in Independence at the time, and Christopher Shawn Sharp, 44 of St. Joseph. Both have pleaded guilty and currently await sentencing.
The case was heard by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bruce Rhoades and Robert M. Smith.