An East Coast man convicted of cocaine trafficking and linked to an international narcotics ring was sentenced Monday in Los Angeles federal court to 20 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge George H. Wu sentenced Zaid Wakil, 43, of North Carolina, who was found guilty by a jury in February of conspiracy and three charges of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute.
The possession counts stemmed from three seizures between May and July 2011 that totaled 175 pounds of cocaine. They included 70 pounds discovered by Arizona authorities and a 105-pound shipment sent to the East Coast via FedEx and intercepted by investigators.
According to federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials in the San Fernando Valley, Ohio and Maryland also seized $1.5 million in drug-tainted money from vehicles Wakil was driving.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Benjamin R. Barron said Wakil, who acted as his own lawyer in the case, purchased large quantities of cocaine in Los Angeles from an international drug ring involving Canadian sellers and Mexican suppliers. Barron said Wakil planned to distribute the drugs on the East Coast.
"There were six separate seizures involving more cocaine than most people weigh and $1.5 million in cash," Barron said. "He was a major customer of the organization and provided the nexus in the U.S. and Los Angeles."
The first cocaine seizure occurred in May 2011 when Arizona state officers stopped Wakil's car in Flagstaff. After he was released on bond, federal prosecutors said, Wakil contacted his Los Angeles-based supplier less than two months later and continued dealing drugs.
According to recordings of wire-tapped phone calls played at his trial, Wakil told the supplier, "Let's make the profits bigger."
Prosecutors said Wakil tried to conceal the drug operation by creating a truck company in Santa Clarita, a front he used to make the narcotics proceeds appear legitimate.
Wakil was one of 22 people accused by two grand juries in June 2012 of participating in a large-scale cocaine conspiracy. Fourteen have now been convicted. Eight others remain fugitives.
Among the convicted are two Los Angeles-based leaders of the operation: Ichiro Tomatani-Guzman and Eduardo Olivares, who pleaded guilty and received 10-year prison terms.
John Darrell Krokos, the leader of the Canadian connection, also pleaded guilty and was sent to prison for 111/2 years.