A Tacony resident was sentenced last week to serve 27 years in federal prison for orchestrating a multimillion-dollar cocaine distribution ring from his home.
Richard Moquete, 35, of the 6300 block of Jackson St., was a Mexican drug cartel’s top local connection and “brought at least 1,500 kilograms of cocaine to the streets of Philadelphia,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Meanwhile, he directed the return of “millions of dollars in cocaine proceeds” to the cartel.
Co-defendant Tony Granado, 68, of El Paso, Texas, assisted Moquete by overseeing transportation of the drugs via long-haul truckers from Texas to Philadelphia by way of Dayton, Ohio, the prosecutor said. Granado was sentenced to serve 30 years in federal prison.
In January, a jury convicted both men of drug distribution and conspiracy. Moquete faced a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, while Granado faced a 20-year mandatory minimum.
Trial evidence included the testimony of a cooperating informant, as well as the testimony of defendants who “personally delivered cocaine to and picked up money from Moquete,” the U.S. Attorney said.
The evidence also included recorded surveillance of Moquete “meeting with members of the (drug) organization and handing over duffel bags” and engaging in incriminating conversation. At one point, Moquete told a witness of “his cocaine trafficking and the money he was paying for the cocaine,” the U.S. Attorney said.
In court filings, authorities alleged that Moquete received and re-distributed more than 1,500 kilograms of cocaine. Agents ultimately recovered 13 kilograms, along with $3.5 million in cash.
Moquete’s attorney, Scott Sigman, questions why agents didn’t trace the rest of the drugs, although their cooperating informant routinely handled the cocaine and money while under their supervision.
“Nobody knows where all the cocaine goes,” Sigman said.
According to the defense attorney, the government paid the informant as he infiltrated the Mexican cartel and became the face of the operation in Philadelphia, meeting truckers as they arrived, dropping off drugs and loading cash while keeping the cartel’s local contact insulated from the couriers.
Moquete maintained his innocence throughout the case and may appeal his conviction and sentence, according to Sigman. ••EndFragment