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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 8, 2022

Honduran Drug Trafficking Organization Member Pleads Guilty to Distributing Cocaine

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Honduran man pleaded guilty today to his role in a conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine in the United States.

According to court documents, Rafael Antonio Pineda Santos, 43, was extradited from Guatemala in May 2022 after being indicted in June 2014 for his role in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, knowing it would be imported into the United States. From 2005 until at least June 2014, members of an international drug trafficking organization based in Honduras known as the “Los Valles” Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) conspired to import multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Central America to the United States.

Pineda Santos was a member of the Valle DTO. He was paid by the leaders of the Valle DTO to provide information about the status of possible law enforcement cooperators and pending law enforcement actions against the Valle DTO. Pineda Santos maintained an extensive network through which he obtained information that he provided the Valle DTO to further the conspiracy. He contacted leaders of the organization to advise them of planned raids or surveillance being conducted against the Valle DTO. Over the course of the conspiracy, Pineda Santos and members of the Valle DTO distributed at least 50 kilograms of cocaine.

Pineda Santos is scheduled to be sentenced on January 13, 2023 by Senior U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, III. He faces a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Sean Ragan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Sacramento Field Office; and Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Division, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Patricia Tolliver Giles accepted the plea.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rachael Tucker and Katherine Rumbaugh are prosecuting the case.

The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs worked with law enforcement partners in Guatemala to secure the arrest and extradition of Pineda Santos to the United States.

The case was investigated by the FBI Sacramento Field Office and the Sacramento Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) with assistance from the FBI Washington Field Office. The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations. The principle mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:14-cr-135.

Updated September 8, 2022