NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The man behind an “extensive” fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine trafficking operation in Newport News and North Carolina will serve 33 years in prison.

Ramiro Ramirez-Barreto, 44, from the Mexican State of Morelos, was sentenced in federal court Monday, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The DOJ said Ramirez-Barreto was the “ringleader” of the drug ring, which was in Virginia, North Carolina and California and linked to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.

The operation brought cocaine, heroin and fentanyl to organizations in Newport News, Virginia, and in Henderson and Greensboro, North Carolina.

One of Ramirez-Barreto’s customers in North Carolina said he had given him 60 kilograms of heroin from early 2018 to mid-2019. Another customer, an inmate in a federal prison who was operating a drug trafficking organization in Henderson, North Carolina, used a bootleg mobile phone to communicate with Ramirez-Barreto.

Ramirez-Barreto was ordered to pay a forfeiture money judgment of $4.2 million and forfeit his house in Lawrenceville.

“This defendant served in a significant leadership role as the regional distributor of heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine for the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most prolific and violent cartels in the world,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “EDVA will continue working with our law enforcement partners to combat these transnational criminal organizations in order to protect the health and safety of our communities.”

Ramirez-Barreto was arrested in 2019 as part of Operation Cookout.

As of Monday, 45 defendants had been charged and pleaded guilty to the charges they faced. As of that time, 41 had been sentenced. The majority of the prison terms ranged from two to 10 years. Five defendants were sentenced to 15 to 25 years in prison.

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