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Press Release

Guatemalan Drug Smuggler Sentenced to 30 Years In Prison

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

Tampa, Florida - Senior District Court Judge Susan C. Bucklew yesterday sentenced Alma Lucrecia Hernandez-Preciado, a/k/a "La Tia," (40, Tecun Uman, Guatemala) to 30 years in federal prison for violations of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA). She was convicted on two counts, by a jury, on September 20, 2013.

Specifically, the jury found that Hernandez-Preciado, from a date unknown to the date of the indictment (September 22, 2011), 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 five kilograms or more of cocaine. Hernandez-Preciado was also convicted of aiding and abetting others, including persons who were on board the same vessel, to commit the above offense.  

Hernandez-Preciado was arrested in Guatemala on October 10, 2011 pursuant to the indictment. She was extradited to Tampa in February, 2013, to face the charges. 

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 (USCG) on May 19, 2011, off the coast of Guatemala. Three hundred and forty-seven kilograms of cocaine were seized by the USCG during that interdiction. Trial evidence also included testimony from the USCG, wiretap intercepts conducted by the Guatemalan National Police, cooperating witnesses in the smuggling conspiracy, as well as communications from Hernandez-Preciado's email account, which were obtained from a search warrant by Panama Express Strike Force agents.

This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force, an OCDETF funded operation targeting maritime smuggling. Operation Panama Express currently targets South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for smuggling drugs to the United States and elsewhere for distribution. 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 prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph K. Ruddy.

Updated January 26, 2015