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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 10, 2017

Sixteen Defendants Charged In Drug Conspiracy

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces the unsealing of three indictments charging 16 individuals with federal drug trafficking crimes. Felix Mejia Lagunas, a/k/a “Carlos Lagunas Salgado,” (41, Riverside, California); Jesus Alberto Bermudez Caraballo, a/k/a “Bebo,” (28, Orlando); Jose Carlos Polanco Vasquez, a/k/a “Pola,” (28, Orlando); Raul Vicente Espada Ortiz, a/k/a “Gordo,” (39, Orlando); Deyvis Lee Echevarria (29, Orlando); Angel Alexis Alicea, a/k/a “Maly,” (28, Tampa); Jose Leonardo Jimenez, a/k/a “Cuzzy,” (28, Tampa); Jose Angel Leonardo Jimenez, a/k/a “Chuki,” (26, Tampa); Jose Antonio Crespo-Negron, a/k/a “Chepo,” (30, Tampa); Rachel Augustine Thomas (55, St. Petersburg); Juan Carlos Lopez, a/k/a “Bori,” (33, Tampa); Freddie Resto (58, Tampa); and Robert Kelly (55, Tampa) were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin. If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. Additionally, Hector Luis Vazquez Alvalle, a/k/a “Hectitor,” (40, Orlando); Alberto Torres Ortiz, a/k/a “El Viejo,” (39, Homestead); and Christian Torres Vasquez (30, Guayama, Puerto Rico) were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in federal prison. The indictments also notify the defendants that the United States intends to forfeit an Acura ILX, Ford F-250, and $79,520 which are alleged to be traceable to proceeds of the offenses.

 

According to the indictments, between December 2015 and March 2017, the defendants conspired to distribute heroin or cocaine.

 

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

 

“FBI Tampa Division is proud of the multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional effort to disrupt an alleged drug distribution network in our community. We as law enforcement officers took an oath to serve and protect and this operation exemplifies that commitment,” said Special Agent in Charge of FBI Tampa Division Paul Wysopal.

 

“This is the result of a collaborative, long-term effort by local, state, and federal agencies,” said Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward. “We’re working together to get dangerous drugs and dangerous individuals off the streets, and making our communities safer.”

 

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, "After FDLE agents worked with Tampa police officers to initiate this long term investigation, FDLE, along with our partners, seized numerous kilos of cocaine and heroin, firearms and currency from an international, criminal street gang and successfully shut down a major heroin and cocaine trafficking organization in our state. Detecting and dismantling this type of criminal organization is a priority of FDLE and we work diligently in collaboration with our local, state, and federal partners to remove these threats."

 

These cases were investigated by a multi-agency task force through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The principal 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. Agencies involved in this OCDETF operation include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Tampa Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Carlton C. Gammons.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated March 10, 2017