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Press Release

Suspected High-Level Guatemalan Drug Trafficker Arraigned in San Diego on Charges He Moved Large Quantities of Cocaine on the High Seas

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Assistant U. S. Attorney Sherri Walker Hobson (619) 961-0287


SAN DIEGO –  Willian Estuardo Lemus Lara, a suspected high-level cartel boss from Central America, was arraigned in federal court today on maritime cocaine trafficking charges.

According to the documents filed in court, Lemus was the manager of the transportation and distribution cell responsible for facilitating multi-ton quantity cocaine loads via go-fast vessels on the high seas originating from Colombia and Ecuador to Costa Rica and Guatemala. The United States alleged that he sold his cocaine loads to Mexican drug trafficking organizations for transportation to the United States.

The United States further alleged that Lemus was involved in a two-year conspiracy and that he directed the movement of large quantities of cocaine in go-fast vessels across international waters, including facilitating refueling vessels on the high seas during their journey north.

Lemus was indicted by a federal grand jury on January 18, 2018. He was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine on board a vessel, and international conspiracy to distribute cocaine. U.S. Magistrate Judge Andy Schopler ordered the defendant detained without bond. Lemus’ next hearing is scheduled for July 19, 2019, before U.S. District Judge  Dana M. Sabraw.

 “Federal law enforcement officials worked together in three countries to successfully disrupt a dangerous drug trafficking ring that sought to smuggle thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “Through effective partnerships and outstanding investigation, we intercepted significant loads of this highly addictive stimulant, stripped traffickers of drug profits, and helped to safeguard our communities.”

“I commend the government of Guatemala and all of our foreign and domestic law enforcement partners for their hard work.  Their support was instrumental in our joint effort to dismantle this international criminal organization's ability to bring dangerous drugs into our communities and ensure the perpetrators of such attempts are brought to justice,” said David Shaw, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. “These type of aggressive and coordinated law enforcement efforts are critical to removing the threat posed by criminals flooding American communities with dangerous narcotics, and we will continue to work with our U.S. and international law enforcement partners to bring transnational criminal organizations to justice.”

“DEA protects our communities by hunting down the head of the snake and bringing them to a U.S. courtroom to face U.S. justice,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. “The apprehension of a suspected cartel leader highlights what we do best: Leverage all tools across U.S. law enforcement, our foreign counterparts, and work as one to take out anyone, anywhere who profits from the human misery of addiction.”

“This significant case demonstrates what we can accomplish together with intelligence, diligence and commitment to excellence,” said Pete Flores, director of field operations for San Diego.  “I commend the CBP task force officer and our partners at HSI, DEA, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office who collaborated to identify, investigate, to bring this man to justice and disrupt this transnational criminal organization.”

During the investigation, federal agents seized approximately 5,900 kilograms, or 13,000 pounds, of cocaine.

This case is the result of ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

DEFENDANT                                                Case Number 18CR0390DMS                   

Willian Estraduo Lemus-Lara                         Age: 49           Guatemala


Count 1 - Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine on Board a Vessel

Maximum penalty: Life in prison, 10-year minimum mandatory; $1 million fine

Count 2 - International Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances

Maximum penalty: Life in prison, 10-year minimum mandatory; $1million fine


Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

U.S. Coast Guard

HSI Joint Task Force Investigations (JTF-I)

HSI Attaché Guatemala City, Guatemala

HSI  Attaché Mexico City Mexico

Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S)

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Updated June 14, 2019

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: CAS19-0614-Lemus