FIVE HONDURAN MEN CHARGED IN DRUG SMUGGLING OPERATION
U.S. Coast Guard Seizes 2,500 Kilograms of Cocaine
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations, Miami Field Office, Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division, Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner, Commander, 7th Coast Guard District, and Randy Donnelson, Director for Air Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Miami Field Office, announced that on August 23, 2010, defendants Loreto Norales Herrera, 33, Vidal Castillo Marin, 44, Pedro Francisco Perez Lobo, 43, Jose Arnulfo Euseda, 32, and Fredy Ricardo Romero, 43, all of Honduras, were arrested and charged with cocaine trafficking. The defendants made their initial appearances in court on August 24, 2010, and a detention hearing is scheduled for August 26, 2010 at 10:00 AM, before U.S. Magistrate Judge John O’Sullivan.
The criminal complaint charges the defendants with possessing with intent to distribute cocaine on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of Title 46, United States Code, Section 70503(a)(1). If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of life sentences.
According to the complaint affidavit, on August 3, 2010, at approximately 1:59 PM, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Forward was conducting a routine maritime patrol in international waters off the Honduran coastline. During this patrol, the Cutter Forward approached a Honduran-flagged fishing vessel, named the Islena, approximately 15 nautical miles outside of Honduran territorial seas. Later that afternoon, at approximately 6:25 PM, a Coast Guard team boarded the vessel and observed approximately eleven bales on the deck of the vessel. These bales field-tested positive for the presence of cocaine. Further investigation led to the discovery of an additional seventy-seven (77) bales, for a total of eighty-eight (88) bales on board the vessel. Each bale contained numerous kilogram-sized bricks of cocaine.
According to the complaint, the defendants were then transported to Miami and were arrested by ICE Special Agents on August 23, 2010. The 88 bales of suspected cocaine were moved to a secure facility, where it was determined that the cocaine weighed approximately 2,529 kilograms (or approximately 5,565 pounds), worth a street value of $80 million.
This investigation was conducted by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations Marine Smuggling Unit in Miami, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Miami-Dade Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin M. Davis.
A criminal complaint is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.