Prisoner Found to be Running Major Drug Ring From Inside Jail

The North Dakota federal prosecution has charged 26-year-old Jesus Amurahaby Celestin-Ortega, alias “Flaco,” with orchestrating a narcotics trade and money laundering operation out of prison. 

While doing time for separate drug and weapons offenses, Celestin-Ortega has been held in federal prison since January 2022 and reportedly was able to oversee a drug distribution empire that included over 500 grams of methamphetamine, over a kilogram of heroin, and over 400 grams of fentanyl across many states, all while using an illegal cell phone to control and organize their arrival into the United States.

Celestin-Ortega had eight accomplices in the suspected drug distribution conspiracy. Rafael Bueno-Nava, Martinez Lucia Mendez, Trinidad Torres Meraz, Ryan James Stevens, and Maria Moreno are the five individuals accused of being involved in the distribution scheme. Jesse Rocha, Christian Ivan Gonzalez, and Edgar Hernandez are the other three conspirators.

Six of the co-conspirators, including Celestin-Ortega, have already appeared in court, while Hernandez and Mendez are still on the run. 

If found guilty, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail for money laundering conspiracy charges and a potential penalty of life imprisonment for narcotics importation and distribution conspiracy crimes.

The Grand Forks Police Department, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, DEA, HSI, IRS-CI, USPIS, and Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force are all involved in the investigation, which is part of an operation by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces. The Special Operations Unit of the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section of the Criminal Division and the Office of Enforcement Operations coordinated and provided crucial support. Prosecutors in the case include Tara Arndt and Lernik Begian, who are trial attorneys for the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The North Dakota district attorneys, Christopher C. Myers and Matthew P. Kopp, are also vital assets in combatting drug trafficking.