SCRANTON - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that that Dominican authorities have extradited Jose Rafael Hidalgo, age 43, formerly of New Jersey, to face a 1999 indictment for drug trafficking.
According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, an indictment returned on August 24, 1999 alleges that Hidalgo conspired with others to distribute and possess with intent to distribute in excess of five kilograms of cocaine. Hidalgo was arrested on August 25, 1999, and, after entering an agreement with the United States to plead guilty, he was granted conditional release. At some point between October 12, 1999, and February 2000, while residing in New Jersey under supervised pre-trial release, Hidalgo removed an electronic monitoring device and absconded.
On February 22, 2000, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued an arrest warrant for Hidalgo. The United States Marshals Service took charge of the investigation to locate and apprehend Hidalgo, and, in 2016, confirmed that Hidalgo was living in the Dominican Republic. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania initiated extradition procedures in conjunction with the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs and the U.S. State Department, leading to Hidalgo’s arrest by Dominican law enforcement authorities on January 17, 2019. Extradition was granted on March 25, 2019, and the U.S. Marshals returned Hidalgo to the United States where he appeared before a federal Magistrate Judge for an initial appearance on May 20, 2019.
“The U.S. Marshals are to be commended for their dogged determination in tracking this fugitive down,” said U.S. Attorney Freed. “This extradition is the result of solid police work and a refusal to give up the hunt, even twenty years later, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Marshals Service.”
“The fugitive task force know no boundaries with respect to investigating fugitives who leave the United States,” said U.S. Marshal Martin J. Pane. “After being on the run for over nineteen years the arrest of Hidalgo is a testament to our dedication to ensure all who flee from justice are located and given their day in court.”
The original drug trafficking case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Pennsylvania State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean A. Camoni is prosecuting the case.
This prosecution is part of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF is a joint federal, state, and local cooperative approach to combat drug trafficking and is the nation’s primary tool for disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, targeting national and regional level drug trafficking organizations and coordinating the necessary law enforcement entities and resources to disrupt or dismantle the targeted criminal organization and seize their assets.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
The maximum penalty under federal law for this offense is a life term of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.
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