A drug bust involving an 87-year-old man who was caught with nearly $3 million worth of cocaine in his pickup has led to another major drug prosecution for the federal government, this one involving a Mexican drug cartel and 18 defendants accused of shuttling massive amounts of coke into metro Detroit for years.
One of the defendants, turns out, is the elderly pickup driver, who was a courier for the massive drug ring that ran a cocaine pipeline between Mexico and Detroit for several years, according to a second superseding indictment Wednesday.
The drug mule, per court records, is Leo Earl Sharp, 87, of Michigan City, Ind., who was arrested last October during a traffic stop near Ann Arbor with 229 pounds of cocaine in his pickup. That was at least $2.9 million worth of cocaine in wholesale value, police said.
In court last year, Sharp did not offer a full explanation about what happened. But he did try telling the magistrate that he was forced at gunpoint to haul the cocaine, until his then-defense lawyer stepped in and advised him to just answer the judge's questions.
Meanwhile, Sharp's new lawyer, Chicago attorney Darryl Goldberg, said that he plans to "vigorously" defend his client given what he faces.
"Any conviction will be a death sentence," said Goldberg, noting that Sharp faces a minimum 10-year sentence if convicted. "That's a death sentence for an 87-year-old."
Per the new indictment, Sharp was a drug courier for two years, delivering roughly 670 kilograms of cocaine to conspirators in Michigan between 2009 and 2011. He was part of a drug trafficking organization, the indictment said, that shipped cocaine on a regular basis from Mexico to Michigan. Shipments of cocaine would be received at the Arizona-Mexico border, and then driven to Michigan, where members would meet at a warehouse in Wyandotte and unload the drugs for distribution.
The drug organization, records show, is a part of an international drug cartel based in Sinaloa, Mexico, and helped distribute between 100 and 300 kilograms of cocaine per month in metro Detroit from 2008 through 2011.
"Shedding light on this conspiracy makes it quite clear that the Mexican drug cartels are open for business right here in our backyard," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso.
Since 2011, DEA agents and other federal agents have seized more than 200 kilograms of cocaine and more than $2.5 million in cash tied to the narcotics ring.
Authorities said that members of the organization resided in Mexico, Florida, California and Michigan.
Charged in the indictment are:
-- Jose Roberto Lucero-Bustamante,34
-- Armando Dias-Lucero, 28
-- Pedro Delgado-Sanchez, 44
-- Octavio Humberto Gamez, 38
-- Moises Osuna Licona, 43
-- Theodore J. Czach, 35
-- Alejandro Aparicio Vargas, 38
-- Antonio Simmons, 38
-- Sergio Cordova Alvarado, 31
-- Nicholas Dominick Simmons, 24
-- Kenneth Dwayne Jenkins, 53
-- David Felix Jurado, 30
-- Oscar Enriquez Martinez, 33
-- Reymoyne Thornton, 39
-- Walter Ogden, 55
-- Mark George Bailey, 38
-- Martin Najjar, 36.
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