Leader, final defendant in Augusta-area drug trafficking conspiracy sentenced to nearly 13 years in federal prison
SAVANNAH, GA: A key conspirator in a Colombian drug trafficking operation has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for attempting to fly cocaine to other countries using U.S.-registered aircraft to evade scrutiny.
Agim Cerma, a/k/a “Jimmy,” 54, a citizen of Albania living in Colombia, was sentenced to 240 months in prison after pleading guilty to his role in a conspiracy to transport cocaine aboard U.S.-registered aircraft, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker also ordered Cerma to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term and to be deported as part of his release conditions.
There is no parole in the federal system.
“International trafficking in illegal drugs represents a direct threat to the safety of the citizens of the United States, and this investigation and prosecution dismantles an operation planning to fly hundreds of kilos of cocaine out of Colombia,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “We applaud the exceptional work of our law enforcement partners in shutting down this operation and bringing the conspirators to justice.”
As described in court documents and testimony, in 2020 the Drug Enforcement Administration, working with law enforcement agencies in Colombia, identified individuals involved in large-scale drug distribution. The investigation determined that Cerma and others were planning and coordinating production and transportation of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Cali, Colombia, to Europe via a U.S.-registered aircraft, hoping U.S. registration would avoid the additional scrutiny given to Colombian-flagged aircraft.
The scheme involved the payment of corrupt airport employees, production of more than 300 kilograms of cocaine from a lab in Colombia, and payments toward the organization and execution of the scheme at approximately $300,000 in U.S. Currency. The investigation revealed Cerma to be the leader of the drug trafficking organization and conspiracies with co-defendants to export the cocaine using an U.S. registered aircraft.
Law enforcement authorities at the Bonilla Aragon International Airport in Cali later seized suitcases containing approximately 330 kilograms of cocaine destined for an aircraft traveling to Europe.
Cerma was arrested in Colombia in July 2021 and extradited to the United States in September 2023. Four Colombian co-defendants also were extradited to the United States, and three of them have entered guilty pleas in U.S. District Court: Jairo Fernando Cardona Lopez, 52, has been sentenced 175 months in prison; Edwin Durlandy Montilla Gonzalez, 39, has been sentenced to 150 months in prison; and Pedro Antonio Penagos Londono, 47, has been sentenced to 48 months. The fourth co-defendant, William Cruz Perez, 67, is awaiting trial and is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.
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The case was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service, United States Customs and Border Protection, and the Georgia Ports Authority. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section’s Judicial Attaché’s office at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota provided significant assistance in securing the arrests and extraditions from Colombia. The case was prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marcela C. Mateo and Darron Hubbard.
Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer - 912-652-4422