Tacoma-area ‘cartel manager straight out of central casting’ sentenced to 20 years

A drug ring supervisor responsible for distributing massive amounts of methamphetamine in the Tacoma area was sentenced Friday.

More than 50 kilos of the drug were transported from Mexico to Washington at the direction of 39-year-old Jesus Enrique Palomera, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“This is the rare drug-cartel case where a cartel supervisor has been extradited from Mexico and will answer for his crimes in a United States court,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum. “Jesus Enrique Palomera was a cartel manager straight out of central casting: resourceful, persistent and ruthless.”

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan gave him 20 years in prison.

Palomera pleaded guilty earlier to two counts of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and to unlawful gun possession.

“The defendant in this case was a leader, a supervisor of a powerful drug cartel,” Assistant United States Attorney Amy Jaquette told the court at sentencing. “... He’s a shrewd businessman who worked his way up.”

She said he fled to Mexico after making a gun sale to an undercover law enforcement agent in 2011 and continued to run the local drug business from abroad, sometimes via social media.

He used fear, and his threats weren’t hollow, Jaquette argued.

She said evidence suggests Palomera is behind the death of a cartel worker who was stopped by police while transporting drugs in 2014.

The man, Oscar Macias, disappeared about a month later, and six different witnesses later said Palomera had ordered him killed, Jaquette told the judge.

The government’s sentencing memorandum alleges some witnesses reported seeing a photo of Macias, beaten and restrained, and that Palomera used those photos to intimidate his network.

Jaquette emphasized how Palomera used fear to control others. She also noted the size of the drug operation.

“The scale of these conspiracies was huge,” she said.

Defense attorney Stephan Illa didn’t dispute that point.

“It was massive,” Illa told the judge.

But Illa also told court that Palomera was subject to the same duress and violence from the people above him in the organization.

The murder allegations, he argued, should not be considered at sentencing. Palomera has not been charged with that crime.

“The defense asks the government to put up or shut up on this issue,” Illa said.

Palomera echoed that when it was his turn to speak.

“If they’ve got the proof, they can charge me for it,” he said. “It’s not a problem.”

He said he was sorry for the man’s family, who attended court.

“I want to tell them that I didn’t do this,” Palomera said.

He told the judge that he was sorry for what he did do.

Then he showed the court photos of himself with a children’s soccer team he was involved with.

There was a photo of the team after they’d won a championship, and photos of the team at a church, at a beach, on the bus home from a game and at his home with a row of fish.

“That’s not a drug dealer’s house,” Palomera said.

Before handing down the sentence, Bryan said it seemed from Palomera’s statements and that he wasn’t the same person as before and that he hoped Palomera was sincere in what he’d told the judge and in things he’d written the court.

“There is always some level of danger to those who would be involved in the (illegal drug) industry,” he said. “There are threats. There are attempts to control other people.”

Bryan noted that the threats in the case were about as bad as he’s seen.

As for any threats Palomera received from his superiors, the judge said: “I think that is not an excuse, but it’s part of what we see in these matters. That’s the nature of the business and is not an excuse for what he did.”