SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury today returned a two-count indictment against Jose Manuel Chavez Zepeda, 54, of Carmichael, and Denis Zacarias Ponce Castillo, 37, of Sacramento, charging them of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and distribute cocaine, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, from April 22, 2016 until at least March 2022, Chavez distributed cocaine in kilograms that he obtained from a supply source in Mexico linked to the Jalisco Nuevo Generación (CJNG) cartel. Ponce worked for Chavez as one of his biggest sub-dealers and later as his “stash” manager. In June 2021, Chavez and Ponce sold half a kilogram of cocaine to a confidential source in Sacramento.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Sacramento Area Intelligence/Narcotics Task Force (SAINT). Assistant United States Attorney David Spencer is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Chavez and Ponce face a maximum legal sentence of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after considering all applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which consider a number of variables. Accusations are only allegations; the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty and unless proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

This effort is part of an operation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OECDTF). The OECDTF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OECDTF program is available at


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