A California man with a penchant for fighting chickens and alleged ties to a murderous Mexican drug cartel pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to conspiring with others to distribute methamphetamine in Tulsa and other areas.
Ricardo Perez-Rocha, 43, called by authorities a “senior-level manager” within the drug organization, admitted in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma to importing methamphetamine and other drugs from Mexico to Tulsa and other areas.
Perez-Rocha will serve a five-year prison term under the terms of the plea agreement with prosecutors, which still requires the approval of a judge.
U.S. Attorney Trent Shores, after the guilty plea, issued a statement that said in part: “There is a cascade of methamphetamine flowing over our southern border, facilitated largely by Mexican drug cartels.”
Shores said Oklahoma and federal law enforcement agencies “stand at the ready to protect our state from the cartels and their associates.”
A federal grand jury indicted Perez-Rocha in June on one count of conspiring with others to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine.
The indictment alleged Perez-Rocha sold meth to dealers in Oklahoma and other states beginning in January 2015 until April 2018. He was first jailed May 29 on a criminal complaint filed earlier that month, according to court records.
Prosecutors filed the felony drug conspiracy charge Dec. 5.
An affidavit filed in connection with the criminal complaint cited allegations from Perez-Rocha’s business acquaintances. One of the acquaintances, who pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in March, claimed Perez-Rocha was his source for meth sent to Oklahoma.
Investigators believe the acquaintance, Fernando Velasquez, trafficked nearly 150 pounds of methamphetamine from Bakersfield, California, to Oklahoma some time prior to July 2018.
Velasquez told investigators that he sent four to five pounds of methamphetamine through the mail to a Henryetta residence for several months in 2016 and 2017. Velasquez said all of his meth came from Perez-Rocha.
Velasquez also described for investigators Perez-Rocha’s interest in fighting chickens.
After driving Perez-Rocha in 2018 to a stash house in Henryetta to pick up cash derived from the sale of illegal drugs, the cooperating defendant said he drove the California man to the Sallisaw area to purchase some fighting roosters.
There, Velasquez said, Perez-Rocha purchased about $40,000 in fighting chickens.
Federal prosecutors, in a motion filed in June to have Perez-Rocha detained without bail pending trial, said the California resident has traveled to Mexico over 75 times since 2002, where he was known to be associated with the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion drug trafficking organization. He is also believed to be the No. 1 receiver of narcotics in Bakersfield that originate in Mexico, according to prosecutors.
Perez-Rocha is scheduled to be sentenced March 11 in Tulsa federal court.