News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2007

Mexican Physician Charged with Assisting in the
Trafficking of More Than 1,000 Kilograms of Marijuana

MAY 14 -- (PHILADELPHIA) - A federal grand jury in Harrisburg has charged a Mexican physician who surgically removed the fingerprints of drug traffickers to help them avoid arrest by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with assisting in the trafficking in more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.

DEA Special Agent-in-Charge James Kasson announced today that Jose L. Covarrubias, 49, of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona, was arrested Wednesday evening by DEA agents out of the Tucson, AZ field office on warrants out of Harrisburg based upon a Second Superseding Indictment. The federal grand jury charged Covarrubias with conspiring to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and elsewhere and with being both an accomplice and an accessory after the fact to the unlawful distribution of marijuana. If convicted Covarrubias faces a potential life sentence and fines upwards of $4 million dollars.

The Second Superseding Indictment is the result of a continuing investigation into the marijuana trafficking activities of Rodney Hutchinson, also known as “Jamaican Mike,” 38, of Harrisburg and others. In May 2006, the grand jury in Harrisburg returned a multi-count indictment against Hutchinson and 33 other defendants charging them with conspiring to distribute in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and conspiracy to launder money. Since then, 27 defendants have pled guilty, are scheduled to plead guilty, have been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing.

According to SAC Kasson, the latest indictment pertains to the remaining defendants and includes the additional charges against Covarrubias. The indictment provides that the Hutchinson organization recruited numerous couriers from the Harrisburg area. These couriers would transport large sums of U.S. currency to Tucson, Arizona, concealed in vehicles or concealed on their person if they flew commercial airlines. There the money would be provided to indicted co-conspirator Abraham Perez who was the source of the marijuana that was obtained from other sources in Mexico. Perez has pled guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Couriers would then transport the marijuana back to the Harrisburg area concealed in vehicles where it would be distributed to others for sale and the remaining amount taken to New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere for distribution. According to SAC Kasson, investigators seized well over 1,000 pounds of marijuana and over $1 million dollars in US Currency during the investigation.

The investigation also disclosed that Doctor Covarrubias would perform cosmetic surgery on drug traffickers to assist them in avoiding detection, apprehension and prosecution by law enforcement agents. According to SAC Kasson, indicted co-defendant Marc George, 42, from Jamaica, had his fingerprints removed by Covarrubias sometime in the summer of 2005. George is alleged to be a participant in the money laundering and drug trafficking charges brought by the grand jury.

This case has been investigated by the DEA’s Harrisburg and Tucson resident offices, the Internal Revenue Services Criminal Investigation Division, Office of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Pennsylvania State Police, the New Jersey State Police, the Dauphin County Drug Task Force, the Harrisburg Police Department, the Dauphin County Criminal Investigation Unit, and the Dauphin Country District Attorney’s Office.