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Press Release

DEA’s Highest Ranking Guatemalan Drug Trafficker Extradited To Face Federal Drug Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Juan Alberto Ortiz-Lopez, a/k/a “Chamale,” a/k/a “Juanito,” (43, San Marcos, Guatemala) has been extradited to the Middle District of Florida to face federal drug trafficking charges. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. The indictment also notifies Ortiz-Lopez that the United States intends to forfeit any and all properties, which are traceable to proceeds of the offenses. Ortiz-Lopez was indicted on February 1, 2011 and arrested on March 30, 2011 by Guatemalan authorities.

Count one of the indictment charges Ortiz-Lopez with conspiring with other persons, including persons who were on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and who were first brought into the United States, at a point in the Middle District of Florida, to possess with the intent to distribute and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. Count two charges Ortiz-Lopez with conspiring with other persons to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing and intending that such substance would be unlawfully imported into the United States.

Ortiz-Lopez’s indictment was obtained following a long-term investigation by the Operation Panama Express Strike Force – a multi-agency task force targeting large-scale drug trafficking organizations involved in smuggling shipments of narcotics into the United States. Ortiz-Lopez was designated under the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program as a Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT), and was considered by the DEA to be the highest ranking drug trafficker currently operating in Guatemala. For over a decade, Ortiz-Lopez’s drug organization received multi-ton cocaine shipments in Guatemala, which would then be transported through Mexico to the United States, where the cocaine would be further distributed.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), including DEA’s Guatemala City Country Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Services (USCGIS), the Joint Interagency Task Force – South (JIATF-S), and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and the Government of Guatemala and Guatemalan law enforcement agencies. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph K. Ruddy.

Updated January 26, 2015