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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Monday, September 23, 2013

Guatemalan Drug Smuggler Convicted

Tampa, Florida - Acting United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that a federal jury found Alma Lucrecia Hernandez-Preciado, a/k/a "La Tia," (40, Tecun Uman, Guatemala) guilty last week of two counts of violating the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. An indictment was returned against Hernandez-Preciado, in Tampa, on September 22, 2011. She was arrested in Guatemala on October 10, 2011, and extradited to Tampa in February 2013 to face the charges. Hernandez-Preciado faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years, up to a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 17, 2013, before the Honorable Susan C. Bucklew.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, from a date unknown to the date of the indictment, Hernandez-Preciado conspired with others, including persons who were on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. Hernandez-Preciado was also convicted of aiding and abetting others, including persons who were on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with respect to the possession with the intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. The evidence presented at trial proved that Hernandez-Preciado organized a series of maritime cocaine smuggling shipments from Ecuador to Guatemala, including a smuggling venture where the crew of a go-fast boat was interdicted by the United States Coast Guard on May 19, 2011, off the coast of Guatemala. During that interdiction, 347 kilograms of cocaine were seized by the Coast Guard.

Evidence presented at trial included testimony from the U.S. Coast Guard, wiretap intercepts conducted by the Guatemalan National Police, cooperating witnesses in the smuggling conspiracy, as well as communications obtained from Hernandez-Preciado by Panama Express Strike Force agents.

This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force, an OCDETF funded operation targeting maritime smuggling. Participating agencies include the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), including DEA's Guatemala City Country Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Joint Interagency Task Force - South (JIATFS) and the United States Marshals Service, with assistance from the government of Guatemala and Guatemalan law enforcement agencies.

The case was indicted by Assistant United States Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow and tried by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph K. Ruddy.

Updated January 26, 2015