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PANEX South Defendant Pleads Guilty to Drug Importation Conspiracy

JAN 29 (TAMPA, Fla.) – Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, and A. Lee Bentley, III, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, announces that Raul Eraso-Mejia (54, Cali, Colombia, South America) today pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with conspiring with others to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing and intending that such substance would be unlawfully imported into the United States (US).  Eraso-Mejia faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years, up to life in federal prison.

According to the plea agreement, from at least 2005 through the end of 2009, Eraso-Mejia conspired with others to smuggle cocaine out of Colombia, by sea, knowing and intending that the cocaine would be ultimately imported into and distributed in the US.  Eraso-Mejia and others invested in cocaine smuggling operations and were part-owners of the cocaine.  For example, in July 2009, Eraso-Mejia was a partial owner of cocaine being smuggled from Colombia's Pacific coast, onboard a stateless self-propelled semi-submersible ("SPSS") vessel.  All of the cocaine was intended for importation, by way of Mexico, for subsequent distribution in the US.  After traveling on the high seas and in international waters, co-conspirators onboard the SPSS vessel successfully off loaded the cocaine to co-conspirators embarked in go-fast vessels (GFV) off the coast of Mexico. Thereafter, the Mexican Navy interdicted the GFVs, and seized 7,507 kilograms of cocaine.

This case was investigated by the Panama Express South Strike Force (PANEX), a standing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation, comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and US Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South.  


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