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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

Monday, December 8, 2014

Member Of Guinea Bissau-Based International Narcotics Trafficking Conspiracy Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To Five Years In Prison

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that TCHAMY YALA, a citizen of Guinea Bissau, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to five years in prison for participating in a conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States. YALA was arrested on April 2, 2013, by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (“DEA”) Special Operations Division, Bilateral Investigative Unit Narco-Terrorism Group, and the DEA’s Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (“FAST”) off the coast of West Africa while onboard a vessel under DEA control in international waters. On April 28, 2014, YALA pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “With his sentence today, Yala is being held responsible for his integral role in an international scheme to traffic narcotics into the United States. I would like to thank the Drug Enforcement Administration for their outstanding work on this case.”

According to the Indictment, other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made at YALA’s guilty plea and today’s sentencing:

Beginning in the summer of 2012, YALA and his co-defendants, former Guinea Bissau Naval Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Natchuto and Papis Djeme, engaged in a series of recorded meetings in Guinea Bissau with confidential sources (the “CSs”) working with the DEA, who purported to be representatives and associates of South American-based narcotics traffickers.

In an early meeting in which Nachuto and YALA discussed the shipment of ton-quantities of cocaine from South America to Guinea Bissau by sea, Nachuto noted that the Guinea Bissau government was weak in light of the recent coup d’etat, and that it was therefore an ideal time for the proposed cocaine transaction. YALA indicated that the boat carrying the cocaine would unload at a secure location in Guinea Bissau that could not be detected. At an October 2012 meeting at which YALA was present, Djeme advocated using “go-fast” boats to transport the cocaine into Guinea Bissau, because such boats could more easily navigate the waters of Guinea Bissau, and provided a photograph of the type of “go-fast” boat that could be used to transport the cocaine as well as information for the purchase of such boats.

In further meetings, YALA, Nachuto, and Djeme agreed to assist the CSs by receiving a two-ton load of cocaine that would be transported to Guinea Bissau by boat and stored in Guinea Bissau for distribution to Europe and the United States. In one November 2012 meeting, YALA and his co-defendants met with two of the CSs in Guinea Bissau and discussed importing large quantities of cocaine into the United States. During that meeting, Nachuto offered to utilize a company that he owned to facilitate the shipment of cocaine out of Guinea Bissau. Natchuto indicated that YALA and Djeme would be responsible for handling the security of the drugs while they remained in Guinea Bissau, with only Djeme, Nachuto, and YALA knowing the precise location of the drugs.

At a meeting the following day at which YALA was present, Nachuto confirmed that he would charge a fee of $1,000,000 per 1,000 kilograms of cocaine received in Guinea Bissau. In February 2013, YALA escorted one of the CSs to a location in Guinea Bissau where the narcotics were to be stored and hidden. The following month, YALA purchased two cisterns, which were intended to be filled with the narcotics and buried underground for safe-keeping, as well as additional equipment for the storage of the narcotics.

In addition to his prison term, YALA, 42, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment.

On April 29, 2014, YALA’s co-defendant, Papis Djeme, pled guilty to participating in a conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States. On September 3, 2014, Djeme was sentenced by Judge Berman to 78 months in prison.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the Special Operations Division of the DEA. Mr. Bharara also thanked DEA’s FAST, Lisbon Country Office, and Bogota Country Office, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Aimee Hector is in charge of the prosecution.

Press Release Number: 
Updated May 15, 2015