THREE MEN CHARGED IN DRUG SMUGGLING OPERATION
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 (HSI), Miami Field Office, Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division, Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner, Commander, Seventh Coast Guard District, Randy Donnelson, Director for Air Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Miami Field Office, and Gregory McCann, Acting Director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Miami Field Office, announce that on December 29, 2010, defendants Willie Elvis Evanks Balico, Oscar Ortiz Aguilar and Marlon Ponce Almendares, all of Honduras, were arrested and charged with cocaine trafficking. The defendants made their initial appearances in court on December 30, 2010, and a detention hearing is scheduled for January 4, 2011 at 10:00 AM, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea M. Simonton.
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 term of life imprisonment.
According to the complaint affidavit, on December 17, 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis was conducting a routine maritime patrol in international waters off the Panamanian coastline. During this patrol, the Cutter Thetis launched its embarked HITRON helicopter to assist in the patrol. While approximately seventy-five nautical miles north of Colon, Panama, the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter observed and approached an unflagged go-fast style vessel heading north. After observing numerous bales on the deck of the vessel and several fuel drums, U.S. Coast Guard crewmembers on board the helicopter believed the vessel to be engaged in narcotics trafficking. After receiving authorization, the U.S. Coast Guard crewmember fired warning shots across the bow of the go-fast vessel. Subsequent to the warning shots, the go-fast vessel stopped its engines. Shortly thereafter, a Coast Guard team boarded the vessel and observed approximately sixty-two bales on the deck of the vessel. These bales later field-tested positive for the presence of cocaine. Each bale contained numerous kilogram-sized bricks of cocaine.
According to the complaint, the defendants were then transported to Miami and were arrested by DEA Special Agents on December 29, 2010. The 62 bales of suspected cocaine were moved to a secure facility, where it was determined that the cocaine weighed approximately 1,500 kilograms (or approximately 3,300 pounds), with a street value of $43 million.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations Marine Smuggling Unit in Miami, Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 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.