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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 17, 2014

Boston Man, Maximo Stiven Bernabel-pena, Pleads Guilty To Drug Charges Incurred During Hammond Traffic Stop

U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that MAXIMO STIVEN BERNABEL-PENA, age 24, a resident of Boston, Massachusetts, pled guilty today to an indictment charging him with possession and possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine hydrochloride.  This defendant also pled guilty to drug conspiracy charges returned in the Northern District of Georgia.  Under special procedures, BERNABEL-PENA pled guilty to this District’s charge as well as the Northern District of Georgia’s charge in Federal District Court in Atlanta today.

According to the indictment, on April 8, 2013, Troopers of the Louisiana State Police (LSP) Troop L Uniform Patrol Division, conducted a traffic stop in Hammond, Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, on Interstate 12 eastbound on a 2011 Dodge Caliber vehicle bearing a Florida license plate.  The stop was based on a traffic violation.  State Troopers identified the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle as BERNABEL-PENA.

Shortly after the traffic stop, State Troopers deployed a trained and qualified K-9 drug detection dog, and the dog performed a free air sniff test on the exterior of BERNABEL-PENA’s vehicle.  The K-9 alerted to the presence of narcotics in the vehicle.  A subsequent search of the vehicle resulted in the discovery of approximately 6.48 kilograms of a white powdery substance that tested positive for the presence of cocaine in a hidden compartment found beneath the flooring of the vehicle.

LSP troopers also seized $2,921 in U.S. currency from BERNABEL-PENA’s personal effects and this money was the proceeds of illegal drug activity by the defendant.

The Northern District of Georgia indicted twelve members of a national cocaine trafficking organization that included BERNABEL-PENA, charging a large-scale drug conspiracy investigated as an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) case, code-named “Operation Holy Trap.”  The investigation, lasting 18 months, involved drug activity in Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, and Louisiana.

The organization is alleged to have been overseen by Edwin Rivera, a/k/a Neno, a/k/a Nano (“Rivera”), a Boston-based drug dealer.  To date, investigators have seized over 70 kilograms of cocaine and approximately $1,000,000 in drug proceeds.

The Eastern District of Louisiana component of the investigation was led by the Department of Homeland Security (Border Enforcement Security Task Force, BEST, New Orleans) with the assistance of the Louisiana State Police, Troop L Uniform Patrol Division.

The Atlanta investigation component of this case was led by FBI agents from the David G. Wilhelm OCDETF-Atlanta Strike Force, which consists of federal, state, and local drug officers and focuses on dismantling international drug organizations operating in the United States.  The investigation also included participation from the Strike Force members: the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the United States Marshals Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS), the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), Lawrenceville Police, Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, Clayton County Police, and Barrow County Sheriff’s Office.

On both District’s charges, BERNABEL-PENA faces a minimum term of imprisonment of ten years, a maximum term of imprisonment of life, a maximum fine of $10,000,000, at least five years of supervised release after imprisonment, and a $100 special assessment.

“The distribution of dangerous illegal drugs reflects a callous disregard for public safety,” said Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of DHS/HSI New Orleans. “This criminal seriously underestimated the dedication of DHS/HSI and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners to investigate and seek prosecution of dangerous individuals who threaten the safety of our law-abiding communities.” Parmer oversees a five-state area of responsibility including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.

U.S. Attorney Polite praised the work of all agencies including the Department of Homeland Security Offices in the Eastern District of Louisiana in investigating this matter.  Assistant United States Attorney John F. Murphy is in charge of the prosecution.

(Download Factual Basis )

Updated November 18, 2014