Federal sentence in large drug ring

By The Examiner staff

A Lee’s Summit man who was part of a multi-million cocaine distribution scheme in the metro area over several years will spend 25 years in federal prison.

Howard Christopher “Chris” Walters, 43, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Kansas City, after he pleaded guilty in August 2020 to drug trafficking and money laundering as part of a conspiracy to distribute more than 2,000 kilograms of cocaine.

According to court documents, investigators say Walters directly distributed about 25 kilograms of cocaine during the scheme, which lasted from 2013 to 2018, and also sold more than 1,400 kilograms of marijuana, profiting at least $976,000. A federal judge ordered Walters to forfeit that much to the government as part of his sentence. His wife, Nina Walters, 39, was sentenced April 7 to one year and one day in prison for her part in money laundering.

Walters was on supervised release for a prior federal drug trafficking conviction, He and his wife were among 10 defendants indicted in November 2018 for their roles in a $62 million conspiracy.  

According to court documents, during the investigation a confidential source bought cocaine from Walters several times and one time saw about 15 empty kilo wrappers at Walters’ home and several more kilos in the kitchen cabinets. When federal agents searched Walters’ home, they found four handguns, two rifles and ammunition, even though Walters was not allowed to possess a gun.

Co-defendant Jesus Campoy-Estrada of Kansas City, Kansas, who was Walters’ local supplier, pleaded guilty in December 2019 and awaits sentencing. Co-defendant Jose Luis Armendariz-Rascon, 40, of KCK, also known as “Uncle” or “Rambo,” pleaded guilty in January 2020. He coordinated transportation of the cocaine and cash payments between the metro area and El Paso, Texas. Co-defendant Otilio Zaragona-Navarrette, 64, of El Paso, who used his tractor-trailer to serve as the courier for the conspiracy, pleaded guilty in August 2020 and was sentenced for five years in prison.