Nine Foreign Nationals Indicted for Conspiracy to Import Approximately 3,400 Kilograms of Cocaine into the United States and to Violate the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced the return of a two-count superseding indictment charging two Columbians, JHONNY RODRIGUEZ ALVAREZ, age 35, and ARIEL CALVO HENAO, age 51, two Ecuadorians, HECTOR RAFAEL GOMEZ LIMONES, age 37, VICENTE LOPEZ MERO, age 60, and five Peruvians JESUS JUSTO TASA CERVANTES, age 64, BORIS WISMARK VERGARA MONCADA, age 53, WILMER ROJAS MILLAN, age 46, WALTER REYNALDO VIERA SULLON, age 44 and EDISON OMAR OTERO CRUZ, age 25, with conspiracy to import into the United States 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. If convicted, each of the defendants faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, up to a maximum penalty of life in federal prison for each count.
According to the superseding indictment and other documents filed in the case, the defendants were on a large container vessel interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard in international waters south of Costa Rica. After extensive searching, law enforcement found a hidden compartment inside a ballast tank on the vessel. Inside the hidden compartment, law enforcement located approximately 3,400 kilograms of cocaine. When interdicted, the vessel was headed toward Ensenada, Mexico, which is approximately 50 miles south of the U.S. border.
“Homeland Security Investigations is highly focused on stopping cross-border drug trafficking as these individuals and organizations show a complete disregard for the violence and destruction that often accompanies the sale and use of these highly addictive drugs,” said Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations New Orleans Jere T. Miles. “The boldness of this criminal group’s efforts to smuggle more than a ton of cocaine into the country showed a callous disregard for public safety and seriously underestimated the dedication of HSI and its law enforcement partners to identify and seek prosecution of those engaged in this criminal conspiracy.”
A superseding indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration, with assistance from the United States Coast Guard. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David Haller.