WASHINGTON – Colombian drug trafficker Carlos Ojeda-Herrera pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in the District of Columbia to conspiring and attempting to transport shipments of 700- 800 kilograms of cocaine from Isla de Margarita, off the coast of Venezuela, to vessels waiting on the high seas to transport the drugs to Florida, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
According to court documents, Ojeda-Herrera was unaware that the transportation organization he hired to import the cocaine was actually a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) undercover crew representing themselves to be drug traffickers. Co-defendant Julio Ramirez pleaded guilty on March 25, 2011, to conspiracy for his role in the scheme.
Ojeda-Herrera and Ramirez were charged on Aug. 12, 2004, in a superseding indictment with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, knowing and intending that the drugs would be imported into the United States. Ojeda-Herrera was also charged with attempted distribution of five kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing and intending that the drugs would be imported into the United States.
According to court documents, between January 2001 and February 2002, confidential sources and undercover DEA agents posed as a boat crew willing to transport loads of cocaine from international waters off the coast of Venezuela into the United States. This undercover DEA crew was hired by the Ojeda-Herrera organization to transport 700-800 kilogram loads of cocaine from Isla de Margarita to the United States. On Feb. 8, 2001, a boat sent by Ojeda-Herrera to deliver approximately 700-800 kilograms of cocaine to the DEA undercover boat encountered a storm at sea and capsized off the coast of Isla de Margarita.
Arrangements for the delivery of cocaine to the undercover DEA crew continued through March 2002. According to court documents, due to losses of cocaine suffered by the organization in Colombia, however, Ojeda-Herrera temporarily suspended attempts to deliver cocaine to the DEA undercover crew. Instead, the organization began transporting small shipments of cocaine and heroin to Puerto Rico in order to earn enough money to pay the organization’s narcotics-related debts.
On May 22, 2002, a member of the Ojeda-Herrera organization was arrested in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after delivering approximately 18 kilograms of heroin to undercover DEA agents. At the direction of Ojeda-Herrera, a boat captain based on Margarita Island had smuggled approximately 40 kilograms of heroin into Puerto Rico concealed inside of fully operating diesel batteries aboard a sailboat.
According to the plea agreement, Ojeda-Herrera is to be sentenced to 17 years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. Ramirez and Ojeda-Herrera are subject to a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison. The guilty pleas were provisionally accepted by the court, subject to the preparation of pre-sentence investigation reports for each defendant.
The sentencing hearing for Ojeda-Herrera is scheduled for June 16, 2011, at 1:45 p.m. Ramirez’s sentencing is scheduled for June 7, 2011, at 9:15 a.m. Both hearings will be held before Judge Huvelle.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Mark Maldonado, Tritia L. Yuen and Stephen May of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The investigation was led by the DEA Bilateral Case Group, the DEA Orlando District Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.