California Man Admits Role in Heroin Distribution Scheme

NEWARK, N.J. – A California man who swallowed plastic bags containing approximately 600 grams of heroin admitted today that he possessed the drug with intent to distribute it, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Omar Vazques, 24, of Bakersfield, California, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of possession of heroin with intent to distribute and distribution of heroin.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On Sept. 15, 2016, Vazques landed at Newark Liberty International Airport on a commercial flight after having swallowed approximately 81 “pellets” of heroin wrapped in plastic baggies. Vazques intended to distribute the heroin after his arrival but was apprehended by law enforcement authorities, who escorted Vazques to a hospital. Vazques underwent emergency surgery after hospital staff discovered that one of the baggies had ruptured. A co-defendant, Arturo Gonzales, who arrived on the same flight and had also swallowed heroin with the intent to distribute it, pleaded guilty before Judge Vazquez on June 26, 2017.

The drug distribution charge to which Vazques pleaded guilty carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum fine of $1 million. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 11, 2017.

U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski, in Newark for the investigation that led to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan M. Peck of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Organized Crime/Drug Enforcement Task Force Unit.

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