Meeker drug kingpin gets maximum term
Authorities believe the “salsa” served up by 45-year-old Francisco Peralta-Cabral wasn’t on the menu at his restaurant in Meeker.
Instead, as Chief Mesa County Judge David Bottger observed Monday, it was dished to customers “not only in Grand Junction and Mesa County, but the entire Western Slope of Colorado and perhaps beyond.”
“Why you did this does not excuse what you did,” Bottger said during sentencing for the reputed kingpin.
The man who prosecutors claimed was at the top of a 36-plus person drug organization supplied from Mexico, importing pound quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine on a monthly basis, was sentenced by Bottger to serve 32 years in prison, the maximum term available to the judge under a plea agreement. Peralta-Cabral pleaded guilty in December to class-2 felony racketeering as defined under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act.
The owner of Los Koras, 173 First St. in Meeker, Peralta-Cabral was heard on multiple wiretap phone conversations negotiating and coordinating drug deals involving various lieutenants and a source of supply in Mexico, according to a grand jury indictment handed up last April.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein told a judge Peralta-Cabral wasn’t known to authorities until Jan. 30, 2013, when a member of the group was stopped by law enforcement in Colby, Kan., with five pounds of methamphetamine in a car. The man implicated a supplier, “El Kora,” whom authorities later became convinced was Peralta-Cabral.
Two cellphone numbers associated with Peralta-Cabral were monitored via court-approved wiretaps during the investigation.
Rubinstein cited roughly a half-dozen conversations when Peralta-Cabral is heard in the thick of transactions, from Las Vegas to Atlanta. He’s allegedly heard on one recording negotiating the sale of 550 kilograms of cocaine and six tons of marijuana with a man in Atlanta. A “ping” of Peralta-Cabral’s cellphone confirmed he was in Atlanta for the negotiation, the prosecutor said.
“The deal falls through because the cocaine wasn’t ‘chunky’ enough,” Rubinstein told the judge.
At one point, a phone conversation suggests Peralta-Cabral discovered a tracking device law enforcement had placed on his vehicle, Rubinstein said. He threw it away.
Rubinstein said Spanish-language experts consulted during the investigation believed it was “extremely clear who was giving instructions and who was taking them.”
Matt Daymon, Peralta-Cabral’s attorney, minimized his client’s role and described him as a middleman who flirted with the drug business “six to seven weeks” in order to support his struggling restaurant while allowing him to continue financially supporting several family members who are disabled.
Daymon asserted some references on the wiretaps to “salsa,” “broken necklaces” and a “chicken” — suspected by police to be coded drug conversation — were innocent enough.
In one call when Peralta-Cabral asked another man if he needed a “chicken,” Daymon said his client was talking about animal sacrifice consistent with a religious practice.
The indictment said Peralta-Cabral was observed by police delivering a box to the man in Rifle shortly after the conversation.
Authorities believe a “chicken” was code for a pound of meth or a kilogram of cocaine. The indictment indicates the box was “large enough to contain either quantity of drugs.”
“What it actually held was a live chicken,” Daymon told the judge. “(Law enforcement) views everything through a lens that everything talked about must be drug-related.”
Daymon also said a written report, based on an interview Peralta-Cabral did with Drug Enforcement Administration agents after his arrest, included a series of statements he never made.
“It’s inexcusable DEA has a policy of not recording interviews by suspects,” the attorney said. “That puts any person charged with a crime in very difficult position.”