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12 indicted in alleged Virginia cocaine smuggling ring

One dozen people have been indicted in an ongoing federal drug trafficking investigation in northern Virginia known as "Operation Springfield Snow." The 12 alleged traffickers are believed to be part of a larger cocaine smuggling operation headquartered in Mexico.

Forty-one people were previously convicted in the three-year drug trafficking investigation conducted by the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, immigration officials, the U.S. Marshals Service and authorities from Alexandria and Prince William and Fairfax counties.

A 27-year-old Alexandria man was arrested in May with five other alleged traffickers. The Alexandria man is believed by authorities to be an integral middleman in the international cocaine smuggling ring.

Individual charges against all 53 people named in the cocaine distribution and sales operation, including those most recently named, include conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine.

Prosecutors allege that some of the people acted as couriers to transport the cocaine to northern Virginia. Investigators say the accused Alexandria man received cocaine shipments each month from multiple couriers.

Some alleged traffickers were responsible for distributing the cocaine, while others were employed as enforcers to collect unpaid drug debts. Prosecutors accused the men of wiring drug-sale money to operation leaders in Mexico.

If convicted of trafficking, the accused individuals each face 10-year minimum to life-long maximum prison terms. The Alexandria man is also charged with firearms possession to further a drug trafficking crime. A conviction carries at least a five-year prison term.

The announcement of the unsealed federal indictment coincided with an arraignment hearing for the Alexandria man. A jury trial date is scheduled for early February 2012.

Being accused of drug trafficking can come with serious penalties. As we can see from this case, certain convictions can lead to a life in prison. Because of this, it is very important that people who have been convicted of a crime understand their rights in order to protect their freedom.

Source: Fairfax News, "Grand Jury Indicts 12 Members of Alleged Virginia-based Drug Trafficking Network," Oct. 17, 2011

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