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Press Release

Lead Defendant Pleads Guilty to International Human Smuggling and Cocaine Distribution Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty today to his role in a scheme to illegally smuggle Honduran nationals into the United States and distribute cocaine in the United States.

According to court documents, Carl Allison, 47, of Pittsburgh, conspired with at least seven others to bring Honduran nationals and cocaine from Honduras to the United States. In February 2022, Allison and others attempted to illegally bring 23 Honduran migrants and at least 24 kilograms of cocaine from Utila, Honduras, to Cocodrie, Louisiana, aboard the M/V Pop, a vessel co-owned by Allison. The migrants each paid up to $20,000 to Allison or his co-conspirators to be smuggled into the United States. At some point during a voyage in February 2022, the M/V Pop had engine trouble in the Gulf of Mexico. Allison and others chartered a boat to bring fuel to the disabled vessel so that it could complete its journey to the United States. Before the chartered boat reached the disabled vessel, the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted the vessel approximately 95 miles off the coast of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and towed it to shore.

For approximately three years, Allison participated in the scheme to bring Honduran migrants from Honduras to the United States via vessels such as the M/V Pop. Allison and his co-conspirators smuggled at least 15 migrants into the United States on each voyage. Once the migrants reached the United States, Allison and his co-conspirators placed them in factories and other businesses knowing that the migrants lacked authorization to enter, remain, or work in the United States. 

Allison pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully bring aliens to the United States for financial gain and conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine hydrochloride. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 28, 2024, and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Three co-conspirators, all Honduran nationals, pleaded guilty earlier this year for their roles in the scheme. Darrel Martinez, 41, and Josue Flores-Villeda, 36, pleaded guilty to the same charges as Allison. Lenord Cooper, 40, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to aid and assist aliens to enter the United States unlawfully and attempting to bring aliens to the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and Special Agent in Charge David Denton of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New Orleans Field Office made the announcement.

HSI Houma, Louisiana, investigated the case, with assistance from HSI Pittsburgh, HSI Atlanta, and the Louisiana Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations, Louisiana State Police, Pennsylvania State Police, North Huntington Township Police, and Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office also provided valuable assistance.

The investigation is being conducted under Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA). Attorney General Merrick B. Garland created JTFA in June 2021 in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security to strengthen the Justice Department’s efforts to combat the rise in prolific and dangerous smuggling emanating from Central America and impacting our border communities. JTFA is comprised of detailees from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices along the southwest border. Dedicated support is also provided by numerous components of the Criminal Division that are part of JTFA, led by the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and supported by the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training; Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section; Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section; Office of Enforcement Operations; Office of International Affairs; and Violent Crime and Racketeering Section. JTFA also relies on substantial law enforcement investment from DHS, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other partners. To date, JTFA’s work has resulted in over 260 domestic and international arrests of leaders, organizers, and significant facilitators of human smuggling; over 170 convictions; significant jail sentences imposed; and forfeitures of substantial assets. 

The investigation is also supported by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) and the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. The ECT program is a partnership between the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and HSI, and focuses on human smuggling networks that may present particular national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns. ECT has dedicated investigative, intelligence, and prosecutorial resources. ECT also coordinates and receives assistance from other U.S. government agencies and foreign law enforcement authorities.

Deputy Chief Rami Badawy and Trial Attorney Kate Wagner of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carter Guice and Ben Myers for the Eastern District of Louisiana are prosecuting the case.

Updated December 8, 2023

Drug Trafficking
Human Smuggling
Press Release Number: 23-1390