Man in country illegally convicted 17 years ago, deported; returns

Published 4:20 pm Thursday, August 4, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — A Kannapolis man could face some serious prison time if convicted after he was deported almost 20 years ago following a drug conviction and returned nearly a year ago to Rowan County.

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Catalino Benitez-Vallejo, 47, Wednesday after an 11-month-long investigation.

Benitez-Vallejo, a resident of Wilkie Drive, Kannapolis, is charged with aggravated re-entry. Benitez-Vallejo, an immigrant who came here illegally, had been arrested by the Rowan Sheriff’s Office, SBI and the former U.S. Customs Service on April 21, 1999, for delivering 5 kilos of cocaine to an undercover agent at a location off Long Ferry Road in Salisbury.

During the subsequent search of his China Grove home, investigators discovered assault-style weapons. His case was transferred to federal prosecution in the Middle District of North Carolina. He pleaded guilty to cocaine distribution and was sentenced Sept. 28, 1999 to 10 years in federal prison.

On Jan. 4, 2008, Benitez-Vallejo was released from federal prison and deported to his native Mexico. He returned almost immediately to the Kannapolis area. He re-emerged using aliases including the name he gave when he was recently arrested, Misael Valencia-Macedo.

Investigators said he kept a low profile, but received traffic citations in Cabarrus County under the name Misael Valencia-Macedo, but was never arrested or fingerprinted.

When he was arrested this week, he denied his true identity, said Rowan Deputy Chief David Ramsey, and claimed his name was Misael Valencia-Macedo. Officials confirmed his identity using a remote fingerprint check device used by federal authorities and through an undercover agent involved in the 1999 arrest.

When investigators searched Benitez-Vallejo’s Kannapolis home, they found numerous documents pertaining to fictitious names as well as 9 mm ammunition and a 9 mm Glock handgun.

Since Benitez-Vallejo is a convicted felon and in this country illegally, he is prohibited from possessing ammunition or a firearm. He was placed into federal custody and taken to a federal holding facility, officials said.

The case will be presented to the United States Attorney’s Office for prosecution of the aggravated felon re-entry charge, as well as the weapon and ammunition charge. Benitez-Vallejo is also facing potential charges in state court for identity theft and trafficking in stolen identities.

Ramsey said if convicted, Benitez-Vallejo could face 20 years to life in federal prison with the re-entry and weapons charges.