Cali, Colombia Man Pleads Guilty To Drug Importation Conspiracy
Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Raul Eraso-Mejia (54, Cali, Colombia, South America) today pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with conspiring with others to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing and intending that such substance would be unlawfully imported into the United States. Eraso-Mejia faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years, up to life in federal prison.
According to the plea agreement, from at least 2005 through the end of 2009, Eraso-Mejia conspired with others to smuggle cocaine out of Colombia, by sea, knowing and intending that the cocaine would be ultimately imported into and distributed in the United States. Eraso-Mejia and others invested in cocaine smuggling operations and were part-owners of the cocaine.
For example, in July 2009, Eraso-Mejia was a partial owner of cocaine being smuggled from Colombia's Pacific coast, onboard a stateless self-propelled semi-submersible ("SPSS") vessel. All of the cocaine was intended for importation, by way of Mexico, for subsequent distribution in the United States. After traveling on the high seas and in international waters, co-conspirators onboard the SPSS vessel successfully off loaded the cocaine to co-conspirators embarked in go-fast vessels (GFVs) off the coast of Mexico. Thereafter, the Mexican Navy interdicted the GFVs, and seized 7,507 kilograms of cocaine.
This case was investigated by the Panama Express South Strike Force, a standing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation, comprised of agents and analysts from the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher F. Murray.