Press Releases


Monday, March 26, 2012

Defendant Allegedly Received Hundreds of Kilograms of Cocaine by Airplane

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Derek Maltz, Special Agent-in-Charge, Special Operations Division of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced that JUAN JOSE VELIZ PINEDA, a/k/a “Rocky,” arrived in the Southern District of New York from the Republic of Honduras on March 24, 2012, to face charges for conspiring to distribute cocaine using an aircraft owned by a United States citizen and registered in the United States.  As alleged in the Indictment unsealed on March 23, 2012, in Manhattan federal court, VELIZ PINEDA facilitated the shipment of over 400 kilograms of cocaine to an airstrip in Honduras in June 2011.  VELIZ PINEDA was presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox on March 24, 2012.  He is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow in Magistrate Court.

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VELIZ PINEDA, 48, was arrested in Honduras on March 13, 2012, and was turned over to U.S. authorities to face the charges alleged in the Indictment in the Southern District of New York.  The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.

VELIZ PINEDA is charged with one count of conspiring to possess and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on board an aircraft owned by a United States citizen and registered in the United States.  The maximum penalty for this offense is life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison. 

The charges, arrest, and transfer of the defendant were the result of the close cooperation and efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the DEA New York Strike Force, the Special Operations Division of the DEA, the DEA Honduras Country Office, the DEA Bogota Office, the DEA Airwing, and the Honduran National Police.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the Government of Honduras for its assistance, and the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs.

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward Y. Kim, Michael D. Lockard, and Jason B. Smith are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.










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