Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, February 1, 2021

Sinaloa Cartel-Linked Fentanyl and Heroin Traffickers

 By Buggs for Borderland Beat

Sinaloa Cartel-Linked Fentanyl and Heroin Traffickers Plead Guilty,
Sentenced in Operation Cookout

The mastermind behind an extensive drug trafficking ring entered a guilty plea this week, and four other defendants either entered pleas or were sentenced recently to substantial terms in prison for distributing large amounts of fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine in Newport News and North Carolina.

“Fentanyl and heroin have inflicted immeasurable amounts of pain and brought devastation to families across the United States and in EDVA,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Due to their tenacity and commitment, our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners seized 24 illegal firearms, 30 kilograms of heroin, and enough fentanyl to kill over 14 million people, saving our communities from significant loss of life and destruction.”

According to court documents, Ramiro Ramirez-Barreto, 44, from the Mexican State of Morelos, operated a continuing criminal enterprise with ties to Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, and California. Ramirez-Barreto was linked to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, as were his drug sources, and his operation supplied cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl to numerous drug trafficking organizations in Newport News, Virginia and in Henderson and Greensboro, North Carolina. According to one of Ramirez-Barreto’s many North Carolina customers, Ramirez-Barreto supplied him with 60 kilograms of heroin from early 2018 to mid-2019. Another one of Ramirez-Barreto’s customers was an inmate in federal prison operating a drug trafficking organization in Henderson, NC using a bootleg mobile phone.

Ramirez-Barreto entered his guilty plea on January 25, 2021, and he is scheduled to be sentenced on July 12, 2021, by U.S. District Judge David J. Novak. Ramirez-Barreto’s residence—where law enforcement found 19 kilograms of heroin and over $600,000 in cash—is being forfeited in connection with this case. In addition, he faces a mandatory minimum term of 20 years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison.

Russel Patrick Johnson, James Noyes and Keith Brownson.
No mugshot available for Tangynika Johnson.

In addition to Ramirez-Barreto, four additional defendants either entered guilty pleas or were sentenced this week by Judge Novak for their role in the drug trafficking conspiracy described above:

  • Tangynika Johnson, 44, of Henderson, NC, assisted co-defendant Cory Bullock, an inmate in a West Virginia federal prison, in getting drug proceeds delivered to Ramirez-Barreto. Johnson pleaded guilty on January 29, 2021, to using a communication facility in furtherance of drug trafficking. She is scheduled to be sentenced on July 12, 2021, and faces a maximum penalty of four years in prison.
  • James Noyes, 55, of Newport News, was a mid-level heroin distributor within co-conspirator Damarcus Mackie’s drug trafficking organization. Noyes was sentenced to 10 years in prison on January 29, 2021.
  • Keith A. Brownson, 42, of Henderson, NC, was a cocaine and heroin dealer who arranged drop-offs of drugs and drug proceeds with Ramirez-Barreto. Brownson pleaded guilty on January 29, 2021, to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 21, 2021, and faces a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
  • Russell P. Johnson, 50, of Suffolk, VA, was sentenced to 140 months in prison on January 25, 2021, for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, 400 grams or more of fentanyl, and 500 grams or more of cocaine.

 Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Source: Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Virginia


  1. The diversity of the mugshots goes to show the many faces of the drug abuser/dealer.

  2. Top Sinaloa cartel drug distributor from Durango. I wonder how long he had lived in the US under authorities’ noses and how many more like him are still out there.


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