Paxton man sentenced to 30 years in drug-trafficking case
URBANA — A federal judge sentenced a Paxton man Wednesday to 30 years in prison for overseeing a drug-trafficking network that imported large amounts of cocaine and heroin from Mexico for distribution throughout central Illinois.
Before imposing the sentence on 32-year-old Eddi S. "Migo" Ramirez, U.S. District Judge Michael McCuskey called Ramirez an "all-star" in the game of drug dealing, adding that this was the biggest drug case he has presided over in his 26 years as a judge.
"Eddi Ramirez is one of the largest, if not the largest, drug dealer in the Central District in the last 20 years," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Bass, who prosecuted Ramirez and 13 co-defendants in the U.S. Court's Central District of Illinois.
A jury convicted Ramirez in February of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and distribution of cocaine — charges that could have landed him in prison for the rest of his life.
However, the prosecution sought a 40-year term, not the maximum penalty. Bass argued that the term would be appropriate for a man who organized a "pipeline of drugs" coming into central Illinois within "months or days" of being paroled from state prison following a previous cocaine possession conviction. Bass added that Ramirez's criminal history dates back to when he was 17, with prior convictions for theft, burglary, being a felon in possession of a firearm and a "gang contact" offense.
"This is his sixth and seventh convictions," Bass said. "He's been committing crimes for the last 15 years."
Ramirez's court-appointed attorney, Diana Lenik of Urbana, argued for the minimum sentence of 20 years. Lenik noted that there was no evidence that Ramirez hurt anyone through the drug ring or that there were any guns involved. Rather, she said, all the evidence shows Ramirez ran his drug operation "like a business" — quietly and without violence.
"This isn't somebody who was out ... wreaking havoc on the community," Lenik said.
Lenik also noted that Ramirez had been respectful in court and did not lie or bring "bogus" witnesses to testify in an attempt to "impede the prosecution." She also noted the support of Ramirez's family members, many of whom were in the federal courtroom in Urbana during Wednesday's sentencing hearing.
McCuskey settled on a 30-year term, saying 20 was too low and 40 too high. McCuskey said that sentence may allow Ramirez "some life as a rehabilitated citizen."
In making his ruling, McCuskey said he agreed with Lenik's assessment of the evidence.
"He is who he is — a successful businessman, in an illegal business," McCuskey said. "There were lots of things that went wrong (during the drug-trafficking operation) — money lost, a car lost — and he just kept on with his business (without retaliating against anyone)."
However, McCuskey also agreed that Ramirez's criminal past — and his apparent lack of rehabilitation following multiple prison stints — warranted a longer term than Lenik had requested.
Before finding out his fate, Ramirez read a brief prepared statement, in which he apologized to the court, his family and "anybody I might have hurt directly or indirectly."
Ramirez was sentenced to 360 months in prison on each of the two counts, with each sentence running concurrently, followed by 10 years of mandatory supervised release. Upon Ramirez's request, McCuskey agreed to recommend Ramirez be sent to a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in a location in the Midwest "as close to his family as possible." Ramirez will be housed separately from his co-defendants.
Ramirez was the 14th and final defendant sentenced in the case, Bass said. Three others remain fugitives, he said.
Ramirez and his co-defendants were charged in September 2012 following an eight-month investigation by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies into drug trafficking in Decatur, Champaign and Springfield.
The investigation, which began in January 2012, showed that from 2011 to September 2012, Ramirez led a drug organization that was responsible for the importation of more than 200 pounds of cocaine from Mexico, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Evidence showed Ramirez used sources in Texas, Arizona and Chicago and various couriers to transport the cocaine to central Illinois, and then provided the cocaine, valued at more than $3 million, to dealers here. Government evidence also established that Ramirez used a "stash" house in Decatur to store and package cocaine and to move drug money.
During Ramirez's week-long trial, Bass presented evidence that included information obtained through a court-authorized wiretap of seven of Ramirez's telephones; the seizure of $855,716 in cash; nearly 9 kilograms (20 pounds) of cocaine seized in Springfield, Elgin and Houston; and about 3 kilograms (6 pounds) of heroin.
Ramirez, of the 200 block of East Pine Street in Paxton, was arrested Aug. 31 near Staunton, after returning from Memphis.
His brother, Jesus, was later convicted in Sangamon County of two counts of attempted murder of a police officer and single counts of armed violence and possession of more than 900 grams of cocaine with intent to deliver, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Will Brumleve is editor of the Paxton Record, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit paxtonrecord.net.