News and Press Releases

Twelve Charged in Panamanian Drug Trafficking Conspiracy


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2011

Wilmington, Del. - Charles M. Oberly, III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Special Agent in Charge Vito Guarino, and Special Agent in Charge John P. Kelleghan, ICE – Homeland Security Investigations, announced today the unsealing of a twenty-count Superseding Indictment charging twelve defendants in an international drug trafficking conspiracy involving the smuggling and attempting smuggling of cocaine and heroin from the Republic of Panama into the United States. These charges are the result of a nearly three-year investigation involving both federal and local law enforcement in the United States and Panama.

Each of the named defendants faces two counts of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and one kilogram or more of heroin, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841 and 846 (Count One); and conspiracy to smuggle five kilograms or more of cocaine and one kilogram or more of heroin into the United States, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 952, 960, and 963 (Count Two). For each of those offenses, the defendants face a maximum term of life imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum term of ten years imprisonment. The Indictment further charges eighteen additional drug trafficking offenses with respect to various defendants, which relate to specific drug smuggling events.

The defendants charged in the Indictment are as follows

• Efrain Dixon (a.k.a. “Pepe”), age 31, Colon, Panama;
• Ronaldo Edmund (a.k.a. “Nondi” or “Ninety”), age 36, Wilmington, Delaware;
• Kelvin Cook (a.k.a. “C,” “Cesar”), age 33, Newark, Delaware;
• Julio Archer (a.k.a. “Ace”), age 39, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
• Benjamin Carpenter (a.k.a. “Benji”), age unknown, Colon, Panama;
• Roumik K. Banerjee (a.k.a. “RB”), age 24, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania;
• Mia Poteat (a.k.a. “Peanut”), age 32, New Castle, Delaware;
• Tina Simmons, age 23, Wilmington, Delaware;
• Sharon Butera, age 51, Elkton, Maryland;
• Dynisha J. Revel, age 22, Newark, Delaware;
• Raabia H. Munjir, age 27, Lansdowne, Pennsylvania; and
• Tessa Kay Snyder, age 46, North East, Maryland

The Indictment alleges that the conduct occurred from in or around September 2008 until on or about June 15, 2011. According to the Indictment and statements disclosed in prior court proceedings, U.S.-based defendants Edmund, Cook, and Archer recruited primarily female couriers to travel to Panama to smuggle multiple kilograms of heroin and cocaine from Panama to the United States. Once in Panama, the couriers met with Panama-based defendants Carpenter and Dixon, where they were outfitted with cocaine and/or heroin. Most of the couriers smuggled the drugs in small compartments sewn into Lycra shorts in an effort to avoid law enforcement detection. After a number of couriers were arrested using that method, the organization began concealing the drugs within hair weaves and wigs. Regardless of the smuggling methods, once the couriers received the drugs they traveled by bus or airplane to Mexico, where they ultimately crossed or attempted to cross the United States border in Texas border towns such as Laredo, McAllen, and Brownsville.

To date, a total of nineteen couriers have been identified as working for the organization. Ten of those couriers were arrested in the United States, while an additional nine couriers remain in Panamanian custody. Four of those couriers – Christine Anne Blevins, Bridgette Davidson Gloria Miller, and Neisha Miller – have pleaded guilty to smuggling charges and have been sentenced in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Laredo Division). An additional female courier, Tissany Buckham, has entered a guilty plea in the District of Delaware and is awaiting sentencing.

The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations, and the Wilmington Police Department. The following agencies provided valuable assistance to the investigation over the past three years:

• The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas
• U.S. Customs and Border Protection
• Federal Bureau of Investigation
• United States Marshals Service (USMS)
• Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division
• Newark Police Department, Newark, Delaware
• Delaware State Police
• New Castle County Police Department New Castle, Delaware
• Delaware Probation and Parole
• Cecil County Drug Task Force, Cecil County, Maryland
• Pennsylvania State Police
• Maryland State Police
• Elkton Police Department, Elkton, Maryland

“This nearly three-year investigation has required extraordinary cooperation between multiple federal and state agencies in Delaware, across the United States, and in Panama,” said United States Attorney Charles M. Oberly, III. “To date, the investigation has resulted in the arrests of nineteen drug couriers in Panama and the United States, as well as leaders of the organization in Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Each defendant faces substantial criminal penalties if convicted of the charged offenses.”

“This investigation is a terrific example of how federal, state and local law enforcement, with support from our partners abroad, were able to successfully dismantle a major narcotics smuggling organization,” said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Philadelphia. “HSI will continue to utilize its broad authorities to target those individuals that pose direct threats to our communities.”

DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Vito Guarino stated, “This case shows how international drug traffickers have a direct and significant impact upon our local communities, such as Wilmington, Delaware and Cecil County, Maryland. Due to the cooperative efforts of the DEA and its law enforcement partners, a major regional smuggling organization has been identified, and its members brought to justice. In this instance, the defendants used well-planned techniques to smuggle large amounts of cocaine and heroin into the region over an extended period. However, their efforts failed due the combined efforts of the participating law enforcement agencies. DEA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to arrest those individuals responsible for distributing illegal controlled substances in the region.”

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