Making Immigration Happen
Chicago Woman Arrested for Selling Fraudulent Identity Documents to Illegal Aliens
A woman was arrested Wednesday, February 13, 2013, on charges she allegedly sold fraudulent identity documents to illegal aliens. These charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigra

Tag Archives: drug trade

Mexican National Convicted for Drug Trafficking and Immigration Charges

A federal grand jury Wednesday, December 12, 2012, returned a guilty verdict against a local resident on cocaine trafficking and immigration charges after a two day trial. The case was investigated by U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Godofredo Barraza-Flores, 32, and co-defendant Carlos Ramirez-Talamantes, 23, both Mexican nationals, were charged in July 2011 in a four-count indictment alleging a conspiracy to distribute cocaine and four cocaine-trafficking offenses. Ramirez-Talamantes was arrested July 22, 2011, and entered a guilty plea March 23.

Barraza-Flores has been in federal custody since his Aug. 30, 2011 arrest. On Sept. 5, 2012, Barraza-Flores was charged in a five-count superseding indictment with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, distributing cocaine and re-entry into the United States by a previously deported alien.

Barraza-Flores’ trial on the superseding indictment began Dec. 12. The evidence established that an undercover New Mexico State Police officer bought multi-ounce quantities of cocaine from Ramirez-Talamantes inAlbuquerqueon three occasions: (1) two ounces March 29, 2011, (2) three ounces April 6, 2011, and (3) five ounces May 3, 2011. Immediately before and after each of these three drug deals, surveillance officers observed Ramirez -Talamantes meet with Barraza-Flores.

When he was arrested May 17, 2011, Ramirez-Talamantes possessed nine ounces of cocaine that he intended to sell to the undercover officer, and which he said belonged to Barraza-Flores.

While Ramirez-Talamantes was being interviewed by officers, he received a telephone call from Barraza-Flores. The two talked about how Ramirez-Talamantes would deliver the money from the nine ounce cocaine deal to Barraza-Flores. Shortly thereafter, another man met with Ramirez-Talamantes at the location agreed upon by Barraza-Flores and Ramirez-Talamantes. When questioned by officers, the man said that Barraza-Flores had instructed him to collect a quantity of money from Ramirez-Talamantes.

The jury also learned that Barraza-Flores previously had been deported in February 2006, and had illegally re-entered the United States without obtaining authorization, which is a felony.

The jury deliberated about two and a half hours before returning a guilty verdict on all five counts of the superseding indictment.

Barraza-Flores remains in federal custody pending his sentencing hearing, which has not been scheduled. At sentencing, Barraza-Flores faces up to 20 years of imprisonment and a $1 million fine. He will be turned over to ICE and will be placed in removal proceedings after he completes his prison sentence.

On Aug. 16, 2012, Ramirez-Talamantes was sentenced to a 37-month term of imprisonment. He also will be deported after he completes his prison sentence.

The New Mexico State Police, the Region III Narcotics Task Force, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection also participated in the investigation.

Texas Men Charged with Marijuana Distribution Ring

Four Texas men are in federal custody following their arrest by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). They are charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 36.5 kilograms of marijuana.

Javier Ruiz-Guzman, 45, Isaias Duran-Duran, 35, Jose Jesus Descarena-Duran, 40, and Andres Duran-Duran, 45 – all Fort Worth residents – made their initial appearances in federal court the week ending in Friday, October 26, 2012, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton. They were scheduled to appear again Tuesday, October 30, 2012, for detention and preliminary hearings. This announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.

According to the complaint, on Oct. 24, ERO officers visited a residence on East Biddison Street in Fort Worth to serve an administrative arrest warrant on Ruiz-Guzman. Ruiz-Guzman was targeted for since he was a criminal alien illegally present in the United States. When Ruiz answered the knock at the door, the officer observed a handgun in plain sight within Ruiz’s reach and secured it. Ruiz’s wife advised there were other firearms in the residence. She led the officer to the master bedroom where there was a pistol on the vanity and a rifle between the bedframe and wall. Ruiz advised that marijuana was stored in a detached shed on the property and provided the officers a key. A large black bag containing about 36.5 kilograms of marijuana, wrapped in cellophane bricks, was found in the shed.

Ruiz later advised officers that Isaias Duran-Duran had contacted him the previous day and asked him to keep the marijuana overnight. Ruiz agreed and expected a $1,000 payment to keep it. He acknowledged that he had done this before. He advised officers that “Isaias” was supposed to call him that morning to arrange to pick up the marijuana. At 8:31 a.m., Ruiz received a call from “Isaias” who advised that he was on his way and that his brother would also be coming. Shortly thereafter, Isaias Duran-Duran arrived. Ten minutes later, Jose Jesus Descarena-Duran and Adres Duran-Duran arrived in a Toyota truck. A subsequent search of that truck revealed $24,000 in cash, wrapped in bundles, located under the driver’s side door.

A federal criminal complaint is a written statement of the essential facts of the offense charged, and must be made under oath before a magistrate judge. A defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The U.S. Attorney’s office has 30 days to present the matter to a grand jury for indictment. The maximum penalty for the charged offense is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Drug Ring and Money Laundering Operation Shut Down by HSI

Seven people were sentenced to federal prison Wednesday, October 17, 2012, for their roles in a drug trafficking and money laundering scheme that used Arkansas businesses to hide $315,000 in illegal proceeds from a California-based drug ring. The charges stemmed from a joint investigation launched in May 2011 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and members of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, Springdale Police Department and Rogers Police Department.

Manuel Haro-Gutierrez, 50, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison and fined $35,000 by U.S. District Court Judge Jimm Larry Hendren. Gladis Haro, 51, an aggravated felon from Guatemala previously removed from the United States, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment and fined $25,000. Osiris Depaz-Ramirez, 28, a citizen of Guatemala, was sentenced to more than two years imprisonment and Victor Palacios, 52, a citizen of El Salvador, was sentenced to eight months imprisonment.

Jania Haro, 34, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced to eight months imprisonment plus two years supervised release. Ivan Salan-Aguilar, 49, and Manuel Haro Jr., 24, also U.S. citizens, were each sentenced to one year and one day imprisonment plus two years supervised release.

The defendants were arrested Dec. 15 and pleaded guilty April 25.

Raymond R. Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans, said, “These defendants sought to hide the proceeds of drug trafficking by passing ill-gotten money through a seemingly legitimate business. Today’s sentencing shows how HSI and its law enforcement partners work to penetrate and dismantle elaborate criminal enterprises that threaten the safety and security of our nation.” Parmer oversees a five-state area of responsibility including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

During the investigation it was discovered that Manuel Haro-Gutierrez and his wife, Gladis Haro, operated a multi-state methamphetamine and crack cocaine ring based in Los Angeles that funneled its profits through two Springdale, Ark., businesses owned by the Haro family – Haro Auto Repair and Paint, and the Rumba Room Night Club. HSI investigators traced a bulk of the laundered currency to the Los Angeles area, where Gladis Haro was residing.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency assisted with the investigation.

Puerto Rican Fugitives Arrested by HSI for Drug Trafficking and Weapons Violations

Two fugitives wanted for weapons violations and drug trafficking were arrested Tuesday, October 16, 2012, in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, by members of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) Violent Offenders Task Force and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents.

Edwin Monge-Peña, 29, wanted by HSI for drug trafficking, and Luis Daniel Rivera-Carrasquillo, 32, wanted by the FBI for weapons violations, were arrested by USMS and HSI special agents in the vicinity of Paseo de Torre Alta in the municipality of Barranquitas, while they were looking for a third fugitive who remains at-large. During the arrest, special agents asked for and obtained consent to search the residence, resulting in the seizure of six rifles; a 9 mm pistol; a machine gun; several magazines, ammunition and cellular telephones; and more than $10,000 in cash.

“These men made the wrong decision by engaging themselves in criminal activity and again, by evading their arrest,” said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “HSI will continue working with our partners in the U.S. Marshals Service Violent Offenders Task Force to apprehend those who think they can commit a crime and then run and hide.”

Monge-Peña is one of the 53 individuals indicted for drug trafficking and money laundering and was a target of Operation Lighthouse, a joint HSI-U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation that culminated in the arrest of 44 individuals Oct. 4.

Both men were transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, awaiting the outcome of their case.

Montana Woman Sentenced for Methamphetamine Distribution

A Billings, Mont., woman was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison August 30, 2012, following her guilty plea on methamphetamine distribution charges, announced U.S. Attorney Michael W. Cotter, District of Montana.

This case was jointly investigated by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, Billings High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, and Billings Big Sky Safe Streets Task Force.

Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull also sentenced Jeri Lynn Milheim, 32, to four years of supervised release, $1,934 in restitution, and a $200 special assessment fee. Milheim was sentenced in connection with her guilty plea to conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and uttering counterfeit obligations.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica T. Fehr, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

  • Between February 12 and May 16, 2011, a total of $2,637 in counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes were passed and/or seized ($1,590 passed, $1,047 seized) in and around Billings, Mont., involving 18 different serial numbers in denominations of $1, $5, $20 and $100 bills.
  •  During its investigation, law enforcement learned that two individuals linked to Milheim were responsible for manufacturing the counterfeit money that was passed inBillings. Additionally, law enforcement learned that Milheim was present when counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes were manufactured by others during a stay at a Billings motel in mid-February 2011. The cleaning staff at the motel confirmed for law enforcement that a printer/scanner was found in a room in February, along with a page of uncut counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes.
  •  On Feb. 22, 2011, Milheim wired money from Billings, Mont., to Las Vegas, Nev.She presented $340 in counterfeit $20 bills to Western Union to pay for the wire. Each of the $20 bills presented to Western Union were counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes. Four of the counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes presented to Western Union were marked with Serial No. II08725279A. Milheim knew the bills she presented were counterfeit.
  •  During the same period of time Milheim was involved with counterfeiting, summer 2009 to spring 2011, she was also obtaining methamphetamine from a source of supply in Las Vegas. The investigation discovered that Milheim personally transported quantities of methamphetamine for redistribution in Yellowstone County from Las Vegas, Nev., in vehicles and on her person. Once the methamphetamine was transported to Billings, Mont., Milheim conspired with others in Yellowstone County to redistribute the methamphetamine. The investigation uncovered that from summer 2009 to spring 2011, Milheim conspired with others to redistribute 50 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.

 Because there is no parole in the federal system, the “truth in sentencing” guidelines mandate that Milheim will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, Milheim has the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for “good behavior.” However, this reduction cannot exceed 15 percent of the overall sentence.

Drug Smuggling Airline Employee Sentenced After Two-Year Investigation

Nearly two years from October 2, 2012, Philadelphia International Airport came to a grinding halt as a security incident was discovered on a Bermuda-bound US Airways aircraft. This security incident turned out to be a drug smuggling operation discovered by an astute airline employee, and investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

It was later discovered that Brian Wade used his position as a baggage handler at the airport to smuggle drugs on US Airways flights to Bermuda for more than 10 years.

Spotted by a US Airways employee Oct. 7, 2010, Wade, wearing his work uniform and off duty at the time, was observed placing items in the baggage hold of US Airways flight 1070. The incident garnered immediate live national media coverage that afternoon. As the incident was being investigated for possible ties to terrorism, HSI special agents assigned to the airport determined it was tied to an elaborate narcotics smuggling scheme between Philadelphia and Bermuda.

Wade was arrested and later pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to distribute a total of 3,022 grams of marijuana. This was related to his efforts to send marijuana to Bermuda by hiding it in commercial aircraft. On October 2, 2012, Wade was sentenced in federal court to 36 months of probation and a $1,000 fine.

“This investigation disrupted and dismantled an internal conspiracy that was going on for years at the Philadelphia International Airport,” said John Kelleghan, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. “Keeping the flying public safe by stopping the flow of dangerous drugs, and bringing individuals engaged in international drug trafficking to justice is a high HSI priority.”

But that wasn’t the end of the investigation. What began in October 2010 continued for more than a year following Wade’s arrest when HSI’s Philadelphia Airport Investigations Group – working with an undercover agent posing as an associate of the corrupt airline worker – received 421 grams of heroin from a target of the HSI investigation. As part of the investigation, the heroin was replaced with “sham” narcotics and placed in a package that was sent to Bermuda concealed aboard a commercial aircraft.

HSI special agents determined that Wade had received the narcotics from unknown individuals who traveled to Philadelphia from New York on behalf of their conspirators in Bermuda. Wade received payment from his counterparts at the airport in Bermuda, who would place cash on the flight destined for Philadelphia. Once the aircraft arrived in Philadelphia, Wade would take the cash off in the same manner he smuggled the narcotics to Bermuda.

On June 1, 2011, HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) successfully dismantled this organization that was using Philadelphia International Airport to smuggle narcotics. Working around the clock, law enforcement officials identified corrupt airport and airline employees in the U.S. and Bermuda who utilized their positions to circumvent airport security and federal inspection procedures.

The resulting investigation led to the arrests in Bermuda of Lorenzo Lottimore, David Carroll and Lauren Marshall, current and former L.H. Wade International Airport employees. Another individual, Damian Hatherly, was also arrested. All four were charged with importation of narcotics. The drugs have a street value in Bermuda of almost $1 million. Subsequently, $90,000 in suspected drug proceeds was seized from a bank account utilized by Carroll.

On Sept. 10, 2012, just before the trial was due to start, Carroll pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import controlled narcotics, specifically cannabis and heroin, and agreed to forfeit $70,000 in Bermuda currency. Additionally, authorities in Bermuda dropped prosecution against Marshall.

On Sept. 25, 2012, a Bermuda Supreme Court jury convicted Lottimore and Hatherly of one count each of conspiracy to import controlled drugs. They both face a minimum of 12 years in prison.

HSI special agents noted that US Airways officials cooperated fully throughout the entire investigation.

Dozens of Drug-Trafficking Gang Members Arrested and Face Federal Charges

Two leaders of separate but sometimes collaborating drug-trafficking organizations were arrested and are among 39 defendants facing federal drug charges, federal and local law enforcement officials announced Friday, September 28, 2012.

The charges stem from an investigation led jointly by the following agencies: FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Chicago Police Department.

Agents executed three federal search warrants Thursday, September 27, 2012 at the same time they began arresting defendants in the Chicago area, Indiana, Texas and California. Agents seized about 2.5 kilograms (about 5.5 pounds) of cocaine, more than $175,000 in cash, and several firearms. The two alleged leaders, Jesus Ramirez-Padilla, 39, and Humberto Jimenez, 26, were among 27 defendants arrested. The whereabouts of four others were accounted for, and eight remain fugitives. Previously, during the one-year investigation that began in July 2011, agents had seized more than 13 kilograms of cocaine, 10 kilograms of marijuana, 1.5 kilograms of heroin, and about $75,000 in cash.

All 39 defendants were charged with various drug distribution offenses in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday, September 26, 2012, in the Northern District of Illinois and unsealed Sept. 27 following the arrests. The defendants who were arrested began appearing Thursday, September 27, 2012, before Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez in U.S. District Court; they remain in federal custody pending detention hearings scheduled for next week.

The operation of Thursday, September 27, 2012, brings to nearly 100 the number of defendants who have been arrested and charged in Chicago with federal or state drug trafficking offenses in the last three weeks.

Gary S. Shapiro, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, praised the dedication and teamwork of the FBI, DEA, and HSI agents who worked diligently with the Chicago Police Department to disrupt these alleged drug-trafficking organizations. Shapiro announced the charges with the following: William C. Monroe, acting special agent-in-charge of the FBI in Chicago; Jack Riley, special agent-in-charge of DEA in Chicago; Gary Hartwig, special agent-in-charge of HSI Chicago; and Garry F. McCarthy, superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.

The following agencies also participated: U.S.Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, Illinois State Police, Cook County Sheriff’s Police, and the Illinoispolice departments of Berwynand Oak Lawn. The investigation was conducted under the umbrella of the U.S. Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).

According to the complaint affidavit, the investigation determined that Ramirez-Padilla and Jimenez, both of Chicago, each led their own drug trafficking organization. Both organizations regularly bought and sold multi-kilogram quantities of powder cocaine on Chicago’s southwest side. Each organization had its own wholesale distributors, drug couriers, stash houses, workers and suppliers. Although the Ramirez and Jimenez organizations operated independently, they sometimes supplied each other with kilograms of powder cocaine. Both organizations took steps to protect themselves from detection by law enforcement, such as: using code words to disguise references to narcotics and other items, regularly replacing telephones, using different vehicles to transport drugs, and engaging in counter-surveillance techniques.

The 205-page affidavit details conversations among various defendants who were intercepted on 26 different telephones during the investigation pursuant to court-authorized electronic surveillance.

Sixteen defendants, who were charged in two separate conspiracies to possess and distribute cocaine and/or heroin, face a mandatory minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life in prison, and a $10 million fine. The remaining defendants face maximum sentences of up to 20 or 40 years in prison, and maximum fines of $2 million or $5 million.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathalina Hudson, Joseph Thompson, and John Kness Northern District of Illinois, are prosecuting this case.

The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Guatemalan National Arrested for Smuggling Heroin in Powdered Juice Mix

A Guatemalan woman was arrested Friday, September 7, 2012, and charged with importing about three kilograms of heroin into the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This investigation is being conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Monica Leticia Morales de Guzman was arrested Sept. 7 as she arrived at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) from Guatemala en route to Boston, Mass. She is expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson Sept. 10.

The criminal complaint indicates that on Sept. 7 Morales de Guzman presented a valid Guatemalan passport, a valid U.S. visa and her Customs Declaration Form. She was referred to secondary inspection to undergo baggage examination, and CBP officers discovered nearly three kilograms of heroin after a canine alerted to the presence of narcotics on her luggage.

Located in a shopping bag inside her pink suitcase, officers discovered nine packages of powdered juice mix which concealed pink plastic bags containing a total of 2.994 kilograms (6 pounds and 9.6 ounces) of heroin, according to the complaint.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.

HSI and Spanish Authorities Combine Forces; Arrest 3 Drug Smugglers in Barcelona

Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), along with the Spanish Guardia Civil, arrested three individuals Tuesday, August 28, 2012, in Barcelona, Spain, for violations of Spanish drug laws.

Oleksii Stepanets, a Ukrainian national; Eduard Medvedev, a Russian national; and Edgar Palma Bofill, a Spanish national, were arrested in Barcelona pursuant to a controlled delivery of 2.23 kilograms of cocaine initiated by HSI Newark.

“The success of this operation overseas is indicative of the excellent relationship HSI Madrid maintains with their Spanish counterparts and a prime example of what can be accomplished through international cooperation,” said Attaché Alexander Alonso, HSI Madrid.

“These arrests clearly demonstrate the combined strength that HSI and international law enforcement agencies bring to bear in the battle against narcotics smuggling,” said Andrew McLees, special agent in charge of HSI Newark. “This cooperation with foreign governments represents HSI’s broad footprint that extends beyond our border.”

“Customs and Border Protection is on the frontline of intercepting illegal narcotics,” said Robert E. Perez, director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) New York Field Operations. “CBP continues to work closely with HSI and other law enforcement agencies to deter drug smuggling organizations.”

On Aug. 21, 2012, CBP officers located at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark intercepted a shipment of pulleys containing approximately 2.23 kilograms of cocaine. The shipment, which originated in Costa Rica and arrived in Newark on a commercial aircraft, was manifested as auto parts destined for an auto shop in Barcelona.

HSI Newark coordinated with HSI Madrid in order to assist the Spanish Guardia Civil in the successful execution of an enforcement action. As a result, law enforcement arrested three individuals and seized a total of 2.99 kilograms of cocaine and precursor chemicals.

This arrest is linked to a previous seizure of 10 kilograms of cocaine which was also intercepted at Newark Liberty International Airport. The wholesale value of the cocaine is more than $500,000.

Law enforcement both in the United States and Spain continue to follow-up on all investigative leads.

Key Player in Major International Drug Ring Found Guilty

 A federal jury found a Colombian man guilty Wednesday, August 22, 2012, of three drug conspiracy charges. He faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison for two of the conspiracy charges and a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for the third charge. This case was investigated by the Panama Express South Strike Force, which consists of officers and analysts from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force South.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Laureano Angulo Riascos, 54, ofColombia, was second-in-command of the Morfi drug trafficking organization. Starting in 2000, he worked with others to smuggle hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to Panama, using speed boats or go-fast vessels. By 2002, Riascos and others began making shipments containing thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico. The cocaine was ultimately destined for the United States.

The Morfi drug trafficking organization pioneered the design and construction of self-propelled, semi-submersible vessels and used them to smuggle cocaine. The drug traffickers built and dispatched these vessels from Mayorquin, Colombia, an area on the country’s pacific coast controlled by the 30th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The State Department has designated the 30th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia as a foreign terrorist organization. The drug traffickers paid the Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia a fee to conduct drug trafficking operations on its territory. Between 2004 and 2009, Riascos worked with others to dispatch more than 15 self-propelled, semi-submersible vessels from Mayorquin, each carrying between 2,000 and 5,000 kilograms of cocaine. The total amount of cocaine trafficked by Riascos is valued at more than $1 billion.

Riascos is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 9. He was indicted Dec. 2, 2010, and extradited to the United States from Colombia April 17.

The current suspected head of the Morfi drug trafficking organization, Jose Samir Renteria-Cuero, aka “Jose Morfi,” is in custody in Colombia. He has been indicted and is pending extradition to the Middle District of Florida for prosecution. An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

The Panama Express South Strike Force is an organized crime drug enforcement task force. These task forces identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.