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Fugitive from drug-trafficking investigation sentenced to federal prison after capture in Reno casino

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 Defendant fled after 2014 indictment

SAVANNAH, GA:  A California man who once operated a drug-trafficking ring in the Savannah area has been sentenced to federal prison after his capture in Nevada.

Antonio Acosta, 45, of Berkeley, Calif., was sentenced to 120 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. after pleading guilty to two counts of Interstate and Foreign Travel or Transportation in Aid of Racketeering Enterprises (Conspiracy to Distribute, and Distribution, of Controlled Substances), said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. After completion of his prison term, Acosta will be required to serve three years of supervised release.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“We commend the alert law enforcement professionals who captured Antonio Acosta and returned him to the Southern District to be held responsible for spreading poison throughout the Savannah community,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “Justice was delayed, but it’s no longer denied.”

Acosta and eight co-defendants were indicted in February 2014 on federal drug trafficking charges following a two-year investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team (CNT). As described in court documents and testimony, Acosta shipped kilogram quantities of cocaine via the U.S. Postal Service, and an extensive network of co-conspirators distributed those drugs throughout the greater Savannah area.

At the culmination of the investigation, DEA and CNT investigators executed search warrants in multiple locations, seizing large quantities of drugs, more than $200,000 in cash, multiple firearms, and drug distribution paraphernalia. Seven of the co-defendants pled guilty to charges in the indictment and received sentences of up to 127 months in federal prison; an eighth co-defendant died shortly after indictment. Acosta fled from the Savannah area, and on July 29, 2020, officers from the Reno, Nev., Police Department received a tip that Acosta was wanted for arrest and was in a Reno casino. Acosta was taken into custody without incident while sitting at a gambling table, and U.S. Marshals returned him to the Southern District where he was re-indicted in November 2020 and later pled guilty.

“This cocaine trafficker eluded justice and evaded law enforcement capture for six years,” said the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division Robert J. Murphy. “With patience, investigative skill and relentless pursuit, this fugitive from justice was captured. This is a shining example of how DEA and its law enforcement partners will work tirelessly to pursue drug traffickers who run from justice.”

“The dedication of the CNT Agents and our partners across the country who worked together for years to investigate, apprehend, and prosecute Acosta is remarkable,” said Michael G. Sarhatt, Director of the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team.  “The sentencing in this case demonstrates that no matter how long someone tries to hide, they will be held responsible for distributing these poisons in our community.”

The case was investigated by the DEA and CNT, with assistance from the Reno, Nev., Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Noah J. Abrams.


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