Pubdate: Sun, 25 Dec 2016
Source: Courier-Journal, The (Louisville, KY)
Copyright: 2016 The Courier-Journal
Author: Beth Warren


Ismael Gonzalez-Gonzalez was supposed to be deported nine years ago,
but Cuba wouldn't take him.

Instead, he wound up in Louisville and, police say, emerged as a local
boss directing the flow of drugs in the Louisville area and beyond for
a Mexican cartel.

It's unclear how Gonzalez, a convicted felon who was arrested in a
surprise drug raid last summer, first entered the United States before
he ended up in Louisville, where he settled into a house in
Jeffersontown. Many details about his case remain hidden in sealed
federal court records.

But John Sampson, a retired customs agent who worked for six years as
a Cuban Liaison Officer in Denver, said he saw more than 1,000 Cuban
nationals from across the country who couldn't be deported despite
felony convictions because Cuba wouldn't accept them.

"We had murderers, rapists, child molesters, drug dealers, you name
it," he said. "It's very frustrating. We had recidivists who posed a
risk to the community and there's nothing we could do."

Gonzalez and his co-defendants pleaded not guilty after a federal
grand jury indicted him and six others on charges of conspiring to
distribute one or more kilograms of heroin, 50 grams or more of
methamphetamine, and five kilograms or more of cocaine. Gonzalez's
attorney, Rob Eggert, didn't respond to several phone calls or an
in-person request to discuss his case.

Gonzalez had been marked for deportation by a federal judge in 2007,
roughly three years after he and a friend were pulled over in a white
F-350 truck, stolen out of Kentucky, after they left Florida on
Interstate 75 headed north with a brick of cocaine and 58 blue Ecstasy

The men had gotten about halfway between the Florida border and
Atlanta when they were arrested in Dooly County, Ga. -- a rural area
dotted with cotton and peanut farms. The deputies who stopped them for
erratic driving noticed the truck was new but the seats looked old,
which led them to find a hidden compartment with drugs.

Gonzalez pleaded guilty in March 2007 in federal court to trafficking
more than 300 grams of cocaine and could have faced up to 20 years in
prison and a $1 million fine, but he agreed to tell investigators what
he knew about other criminal activity, according to the plea
agreement. He was sentenced to serve a little more than four years in
prison, followed by three years' supervised release.

With credit for time served behind bars awaiting trial, Gonzalez was
soon released.

He was transferred from prison to the custody of U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, in April 2007, federal officials
confirmed. In less than three weeks, a federal immigration judge
ordered Gonzalez removed from the U.S.

"Since Cuba did not provide the mandatory travel documents to
repatriate Gonzalez-Gonzalez, ICE released him on an order of
supervision," Gail Montenegro, a spokeswoman for ICE and the
Department of Homeland Security, confirmed in an email to the

Gonzalez was supposed to report periodically to Customs Enforcement,
she said. And because the judge had ordered Gonzalez to serve three
years' probation after prison, he also had to report to a federal
probation officer.

He had lived in Louisville on and off for more than a decade, so the
U.S. Probation Office for the Western District of Kentucky, based in
Louisville, agreed to accept Gonzalez in March 2008, according to
federal court records.

He eventually came to the attention of Louisville Metro Police. After
a drug ring investigation, Gonzalez was charged in 2015 with being a
member of a criminal syndicate that sold heroin, cocaine, marijuana
and Xanax and engaged in credit card fraud, Jefferson County court
records show.

But those charges were put on hold after Gonzalez became the focus of
a larger investigation by local police and federal agents.

Gonzalez and six other people -- including Dante Watts Sr., who was
accused of torturing his own cousin over missing cash and drugs --
were arrested in July after investigators, during a series of
wiretaps, overheard them discussing a large drug shipment bound for

During a raid, agents with the DEA and FBI teamed with police SWAT
members and narcotics detectives to fan out and make three
simultaneous busts, arresting Gonzalez at his Jeffersontown home,
Watts at Mall St. Matthews and others at an auto repair shop on
Strawberry Lane west of the Louisville International Airport.
Investigators, who were assisted by Jeffersontown Police SWAT and
Kentucky State Police, say they intercepted a semi carrying six
kilograms of heroin and 31 kilograms of cocaine.

Now Gonzalez and his co-defendants are awaiting trial. Sampson said
it's too early to tell how changing relations with Cuba and a new U.S.
president will affect the deportations of felons.

No matter the verdict in Gonzalez's case, if he is immediately
released from an acquittal or eventually completes a prison stint, the
U.S. Marshals Service has been instructed to return him to immigration
officials, Montenegro said.

So, either way, ICE will again attempt to remove him to Cuba.
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