News and Press Releases

FOUR BOLIVIAN NATIONALS CHARGED WITH DRUG TRAFFICKING

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division, announced the unsealing of an indictment against defendants Rene Sanabria-Oropeza, Milton Sanchez-Pantoja, Marcelo Foronda-Azero, and Jorge Sanchez-Pantoja, all Bolivian nationals, on charges of conspiracy to import cocaine and importation of cocaine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 963 and 952(a). Defendants Rene Sanabria-Oropeza and Marcelo Foronda-Azero were arrested on Thursday, February 24, 2011. Defendant Sanabria-Oropeza made his initial appearance in court on February 25, 2011. Foronda-Azero made his initial appearance in federal court today. A pre-trial detention hearing is scheduled for March 2, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. for both men. Defendants Milton and Jorge Sanchez-Pantoja remain at large.

This investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, with the assistance of special agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. According to statements made in court, the four defendants produced and exported bulk kilogram loads of cocaine from Bolivia to the United States. Foronda-Azero and Jorge Sanchez-Pantoja allegedly agreed to sell one hundred kilograms of cocaine to purported members of a Colombian drug trafficking organization that claimed to want to distribute cocaine in the Miami, Florida area and other parts of the United States. Foronda-Azero and Jorge Sanchez-Pantoja also wanted to send an additional quantity of cocaine for sale in the United States on behalf of Foronda-Azero’s organization.

According to statements made in court, Rene Sanabria-Oropeza is the Director of CIGIEN, which is a Bolivian Counter-Narcotics Intelligence unit within the Ministry of Government. Milton Sanchez-Pantoja is a Colonel in the Bolivian National Police. Sanabria-Oropeza and Milton Sanchez-Pantoja allegedly agreed to provide protection for the cocaine load sent by Foronda-Azero and ensure that the cargo container that held the cocaine would safely cross the Bolivia-Chile border without being seized.

According to court records, in late September, 2010, the Foronda organization sent 144 kilograms of cocaine to the Port of Miami hidden in a cargo container containing zinc rocks. The cargo container traveled over land from Bolivia to the Port of Arica in Chile, before being loaded onto a ship and traveling to the Port of Miami. On November 29, 2010, the DEA took possession of the container and seized the 144 kilograms of cocaine.

This case is the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The OCDETF mission is to identify, investigate, and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking enterprises, bringing together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of DEA, and thanked ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and CBP for their assistance on this case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Dobbins.

An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are assumed innocent until proven guilty.

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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.

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