Two Members Of An International Drug Trafficking Organization Found Guilty Of Conspiracy To Possess With Intent To Distribute Controlled Substances
SAN JUAN, P.R. – After four days of jury trial presided by US District Court Judge Jay A. García-Gregory, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts against Edilio Benjamín-Hernández and Johanni Balbuena-Hernández for Conspiring to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, Aiding and Abetting the Importation of Controlled Substances, and Conspiring to Import Controlled Substances, announced United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. Johanni Balbuena-Hernández was also convicted of Reentry by a Removed Alien and Edilio Benjamin-Hernández was found guilty of Improper Entry by an Alien.
The two were part of a larger international drug trafficking organization based in the Dominican Republic that landed 276 kilograms of cocaine in the municipality of Vega Baja.
The evidence at trial involved testimony from agents of the Dirección Nacional de Control de Drogas (DNCD) of the Dominican Republic, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), and Fuerzas Unidas de Rápida Acción (PRPD Maritime Unit). Additionally, the jury heard several wiretaps that were intercepted in the Dominican Republic by the DNCD where the members of the drug trafficking organization were heard planning their drug smuggling ventures.
Seven other defendants were charged for participating in the criminal organization. Defendant Miki King-Batista had previously pled guilty and been sentenced to 151 months and a supervised release term of 5 years. Defendant Daniel Ramírez-Pérez had previously pled guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Defendants Manuel Almeyda-Vasquez, Nelson King-De Aza, and Carlos De la Cruz-Paulino are awaiting trial.
The case, named “Operation King Dynasty,” was part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
“This conviction marks yet another victory in our fight against narcotics in Puerto Rico and a clear indication of the success of the OCDETF program in the fight against drug trafficking. Our team of prosecutors and case agents set an excellent example of teamwork during the investigation which led to the conviction of these defendants at trial,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Marc S. Chattah and Julia Díaz-Rex, Narcotics Unit Chief. The defendants are facing a minimum of ten years in prison with a maximum penalty of up to life imprisonment. The sentencing is scheduled for February 15, 2019.
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