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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Vermont

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, October 31, 2016

Federal Grand Jury Adds Conspiracy Charge In Guatemala-To-Vermont Heroin Distribution Case

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that last week the Grand Jury in Rutland returned a Second Superseding Indictment adding a charge of conspiracy against Marco Antonio Lam Peralta and Diego Walther Anibal Mejia Paredes. The Second Superseding Indictment re-alleged the two previous counts from the First Superseding Indictment, which charged Lam Peralta and Mejia Paredes with possession with intent to distribute more than a kilogram of heroin, and Lam Peralta with harboring an illegal alien. The new conspiracy count alleges that Lam Peralta and Mejia Paredes conspired from July to October 2015 to distribute more than a kilogram of heroin.

If convicted on either heroin-related count, the defendants would face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum sentence of life in prison. The Second Superseding Indictment is an accusation only; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Court records show that this case arose from an October 2015 shipment from Guatemala destined for the address of a Mexican restaurant in Manchester Center, Vermont. Customs officials determined the shipment contained a large quantity of heroin (more than 40 kilograms, or 88 pounds) hidden in Guatemalan nutritional supplement packaging. Agents from the Department of Homeland Security, working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Vermont State Police, arranged for a controlled delivery of this package to the restaurant, where Mejia Paredes was waiting to take delivery.

Court filings indicate that while Mejia Paredes waited for the shipment to be delivered, he was in telephone contact with Lam Peralta, and that while Mejia Paredes waited at the restaurant Lam Peralta contacted the shipping company twice. Additional investigation identified seven previous shipments, similar in size, weight, and customs declarations to the heroin-containing intercepted package, that were sent to addresses associated with Lam Peralta in the Manchester area from Guatemala in the three months preceding the October 2015 arrest. Upon his arrest Mejia Paredes possessed a cell phone which appears to contain messages between him and Lam Peralta discussing one of the earlier shipments, as well as to where the intercepted-package should be addressed.

No trial date has been set. Both Mejia Paredes and Lam Peralta have been ordered detained in the custody of the United States Marshal pending trial. Last week Lam Peralta filed motions with the United States District Court for the District of Vermont, seeking to sever his case from Mejia Paredes’ and the suppression of his post-arrest statements to law enforcement. He also filed a motion asking the Court to reconsider its previous decision that he be detained.

AUSA Michael Drescher is handling the prosecution. Lam Peralta is represented by Ernest M. Allen, III, of Burlington, and Mejia Paredes is represented by Steven Barth, of Burlington.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated October 31, 2016