The Crime Scene: Regional 'director' in drug case tried

By Dana Hedgpeth
Monday, February 28, 2011; 4:30 PM

A federal jury in Alexandria heard closing arguments Monday in the trial of an alleged drug dealer accused of bringing cocaine from Mexico to sell in Northern Virginia.

Fernando Reynoso Avalos, 25, of Fort Washington, is alleged to have been a part of a large-scale conspiracy to bring multi-kilograms of cocaine ranging from 20 to 30 kilos at a time into the U.S. from 2008 through 2009.

Prosecutors in the case, which is being tried by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, called four witnesses and an FBI agent who testified before the jury over two and a half days.

They told of finding as much as $600,000 in cash in a toolbox and other places, hidden under coffee. Other witnesses told the jury of making cell phone calls to Avalos, who is nicknamed "Pando," and having Pando's various phone numbers in their cell phones.

They also told of selling drugs in exchange for money in the parking lots of a McDonalds and a Home Depot.

But Avalos "wasn't a kingpin," Scott Nussbum, an assistant U.S. attorney who was helping to try the case, said in his closing argument to the jury. "He was a regional director and in his role he moved a lot of cocaine into this area. He got caught and now he needs to be held accountable."

Avalos allegedly arranged for the shipment of cocaine from Mexico to the Northern Virginia region, Nussbum said. "He received it, they distributed it and sometimes they went along for the ride," Nussbum told the jurors. "And they did it for profit."

Avalos pleaded not guilty to the charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. David Williams, Avalos's defense attorney, argued that the government's case was based on testimony from former drug dealers who lied to try to get better deals for themselves and gave inconsistent statements to law enforcement at various times and during their trial testimony.

Williams told the jury that if Avalos was part of a drug conspiracy it wouldn't "make sense for him to walk back across the border when people were busted and cooperating with the government" as he allegedly did last spring.

Government witnesses, who are former drug dealers, were said to have thousands of dollars of cash on them - or in their possession -- when they were arrested, Williams said. Avalos, however, was found to have only $2.05 in his pocket when he crossed the border, Williams told the jury.

"The government's witnesses are drug dealers," Williams said. 'They are not worth believing."

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