Cocaine dealer sentenced to 6 1/2 years

HARRISONBURG – A Winchester man was sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison Thursday in U.S. District Court for his role in a cocaine distribution ring.

The defendant, Victor Enrique Velez-Sellas, sold more than a pound of cocaine in a series of transactions from November 2013 to January 2015 before law enforcement officers arrested him on Interstate 81 in Frederick County in February 2015.

A statement of facts filed in the case states that officers found an additional 1 ¼ pounds of cocaine in Velez-Sellas’ possession when they stopped his vehicle.

U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski said three guns linked to Velez-Sellas and the drug sales raised the stakes in his sentencing decision.

“The consistent involvement of guns with his drugs is something that requires the court to ramp up the sentence a little bit,” Urbanski said.

Urbanski said he was also troubled that Velez-Sellas was selling drugs purely as a moneymaking venture, unlike some dealers who are addicts and use the proceeds from their sales to pay for drugs needed to quell their all-consuming cravings.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeb Terrien said the case was unusual for the way in which Velez-Sellas obtained his drugs through overseas sources.

“Specifically, the defendant would receive 28 to 32 ounces of cocaine forwarded to his residence in Virginia on consignment every one to three months from his source of supply in Puerto Rico,” Terrien wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

“Once the defendant sold the cocaine to new buyers, he would mail the Puerto Rican source of supply their respective share of the profits from sale of the imported cocaine,” Terrien added. “The defendant was both a leader and organizer within his criminal enterprise; he recruited other members into the scheme; he shipped drug proceeds to Puerto Rico; used code words; and he utilized hidden compartments in vehicles in order to evade detection by law enforcement.”

Assistant Federal Public Defender Andrea Harris, who represented Velez-Sellas, urged Urbanski to consider her client’s previously clean criminal record. Velez-Sellas, 31, is a native of Puerto Rico who moved to Virginia 12 years ago. Harris wrote in a sentencing memorandum that he moved to be closer to his parents, who live in Front Royal.

Harris said her client has been working mostly in auto shops over the last 10 years and was operating his own shop at the time of his arrest.

Harris wrote that medical bills stemming from his girlfriend’s difficult pregnancy were the reason Velez-Sellas turned to drug dealing. He used the drug money to supplement his main source of income as an auto mechanic, Harris said.

“Although distribution of cocaine is a serious offense, Mr. Velez’s involvement in this
offense did not arise from a calculated plan to participate in a criminal lifestyle rather than work as a law-abiding citizen; instead, the opportunity to participate in the criminal activity presented itself as a way for him to make ends meet at a time when he and his girlfriend were in difficult financial circumstances due to their troubled pregnancy,” Harris wrote.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com