Three Southern Arizonans from a Mexico-based drug trafficking organization pleaded guilty in a District of Columbia courthouse to importing and distributing narcotics.

Benjamin Soto Jr., 47, of Nogales; and Refugio Veronica Quintero Moreno, 46, of Rio Rico, both pleaded guilty on July 3.

Along with Angel Adan Valenzuela, 25, of Rio Rico, who pleaded guilty to the same charges on June 16, they worked with others to routinely transport narcotics from Mexico through the port of entry in Nogales by car and ship those narcotics across the United States.

After importing the narcotics into the United States, Valenzuela and other couriers moved them to a shipping facility in Nogales, prepared the packages for shipment, and had them distributed to cities across the United States.

Soto and Quintero Moreno were employed at a commercial shipping company in Nogales, and routinely accepted narcotics-laden packages from couriers without requesting identification or payment. They then mailed the packages fraudulently by using existing business accounts.

Valenzuela paid the shipping company employees on behalf of the DTO for their role in shipping controlled substances, including Soto and Quintero Moreno, who received weekly payments in Mexico for their role in facilitating narcotics shipments from January 2020 through April 2022.

From September 2021 to November 2021, agents identified and intercepted 21 packages sent in this manner, resulting in the seizure of more than 30 kilograms of methamphetamine, 20 kilograms of cocaine, seven kilograms of fentanyl, and four kilograms of heroin.

Valenzuela, Quintero Moreno, and Soto all pleaded guilty to a two-count indictment charging each with conspiring to import five kilograms or more of cocaine, 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, and 400 grams or more of fentanyl; and conspiring to distribute those amounts of those substances and Ritalin.

Soto and Quintero Moreno are scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 15 and Valenzuela is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 16. Each faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison on each count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.