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Posted at 6:21 PM ET, 02/22/2011

Trial begins in cocaine case

By Dana Hedgpeth

The trial of Fernando Reynoso Avalos, 25, who is accused of conspiracy to distribute cocaine brought from Mexico to the United States and parts of Northern Virginia, began Tuesday in a federal courthouse in Alexandria.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Virginia, which is prosecuting the case, Avalos and his co-conspirators engaged in a scheme from August 2008 to September 2009 to bring in cocaine in batches of 20 to 30 kilos and sell it in Northern Virginia. The deals took place in Home Depot or McDonalds parking lots, prosecutors told the jury.

"Fernando Avalos was a businessman, and like many businessmen he had clients and employees," said Paul Rosen, a special assistant U.S. attorney who is prosecuting the case along with Scott Nussbum, another assistant U.S. attorney.

"But this was no legitimate business," Rosen said. "This was the business of cocaine trafficking."

Rosen said the alleged drug dealers used nicknames such as "Pando" and "Siete" and kept "hundreds of thousands of dollars in toolboxes" at houses they rented, and carried cocaine in cars.

Rosen called two witnesses, who had pleaded guilty to being involved in selling the drugs, and testified to phone calls they'd made with Avalos and others involved. The government is also expected to call other witnesses, including an FBI official, who are expected to testify about court-ordered wiretaps that were done, exposing the alleged drug deals.

David Williams, Avalos's attorney, said the government's story was "simple" but based on the statements of drug dealers who lied about the case to law enforcement officials and the U.S. attorney's office.

"The evidence will show that the government's witnesses can't agree what happened during this conspiracy," Williams told the jury. "The government's story doesn't make sense. It doesn't show Avalos as a drug kingpin but as a convenient target for people looking to cover for themselves."

The trial resumes Thursday.

By Dana Hedgpeth  | February 22, 2011; 6:21 PM ET
Categories:  Dana Hedgpeth, From the Courthouse  
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