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Guatemalan Drug Smuggler Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison

DEC 18 (TAMPA, Fla.) – Senior District Court Judge Susan C. Bucklew yesterday sentenced Alma Lucrecia Hernandez-Preciado, a/k/a "La Tia," (40, Tecun Uman, Guatemala) to 30 years in federal prison for violations of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. On September 20, 2103, Hernandez-Preciado was convicted on two counts by a trial jury.

Specifically, the jury found that Hernandez-Preciado, from a date unknown to the date of the indictment (September 22, 2011), conspired with others, including persons who were on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. Hernandez-Preciado was also convicted of aiding and abetting others, including persons who were on board the same vessel to commit the above offense.  Hernandez-Preciado was arrested in Guatemala on October 10, 2011, pursuant to the indictment. She was extradited to Tampa in February 2013 to face the charges.

Evidence presented at trial proved that Hernandez-Preciado organized a series of maritime cocaine smuggling shipments from Ecuador to Guatemala.  One in particular was on May 19, 2011, the crew of a go-fast boat was interdicted by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) off the coast of Guatemala and 347 kilograms of cocaine were seized during that interdiction. Trial evidence included testimony from the USCG, wiretap intercepts conducted by the Guatemalan National Police, cooperating witnesses, as well as communications from Hernandez-Preciado's email account obtained from a search warrant.

This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force which targets maritime smuggling. Operation Panama Express currently targets South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for smuggling drugs to the United States and elsewhere for distribution. Participating agencies include the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Miami Field Division, including DEA's Guatemala City Country Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the USCG Investigative Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the Joint Interagency Task Force – South, and the United States Marshals Service, with assistance from the government of Guatemala and Guatemalan law enforcement agencies.  This case was prosecuted by Untied States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida


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