LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony V. Mangione, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Mark Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), William T. Sims, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Thomas S. Winkowski, Director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Robert Parker, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department, and other local law enforcement members of the South Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, announced the results of Operation Conquistadors. This Operation has resulted in two separate Indictments against twenty-eight (28) individuals for their alleged involvement in a large-scale drug importation and distribution organization and fraudulent credit card scheme.
The first Indictment charges twenty-seven (27) individuals with various counts of narcotics trafficking involving systematic efforts to import cocaine and heroin into the United States and distribute cocaine and heroin in the South Florida area between 2002 and the present date. Charged in the first indictment are defendants Julio Ramirez, Virginio Rudy Suarez, Niexi Garcia-Lamela, Miguel Suarez, Carlos Perez, Leandro Alvarez-Castillo, Mariza Lamela, Roberto Maceo, Lazaro Galvez, Heriberto Santallana, Ana Maines, Lazaro Fundora, Osmany Sanchez-Lamela, Franklin Acosta, Alexis Maceo, Rodolfo Quesada, Pedro Mendez, Orlando Jose Escobar, Marietta Montesino-Suarez, Victor Orlando Paredes-Burbano, Raul Humberto Barahona, Gabriel Bernardo Correa-Dominguez, Alberto Santos-Maceo, Jesus Alain Martin, Jose Jaime Calderon-Gomez, William Gustavo Aguirre-Rengifo, and Jose Manuel Alvarez-Casas.
These defendants are charged in connection with a systematic conspiracy to import cocaine and heroin using international cargo flights and sea vessel containers traveling from Colombia, Venezuela, and Peru and arriving at Miami International Airport (MIA) and the Port of Miami between 2002 through the present date, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 952(a) and 963. The indictment also charges Ramirez, Suarez, Garcia-Lamela, Miguel Suarez, Perez, Alvarez-Castillo, Mariza Lamela, Maceo, Galvez, Santallana, Maines, Fundora, Sanchez-Lamela, Alexis Maceo, Quesada, Mendez, Escobar, Montesino-Suarez, Santos-Maceo, and Martin with possession and conspiracy to posses with the intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 841(a)(1) and 846. To date, a total of 237 kilograms (521.4 lbs) of cocaine and 37 kilograms (81.4 lbs) of heroin have been seized.
The second indictment charges five individuals from the first narcotics Indictment and two additional individuals with conspiring to commit credit card fraud, fraud and related activities in connection with access devices, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C. Sections 1028 and 1029. Charged in the second Indictment are defendants Virginio Rudy Suarez, Miguel Suarez, Alberto Chang-Cabrera, Marietta Montesino-Suarez, Julio Ramirez, Lazaro Fundora, and Celis Alvarez.
These defendants are charged for their alleged participation in a fraudulent credit card scheme. Federal agents discovered the credit card fraud scheme during the underlying narcotics trafficking investigation. According to the charges, the conspirators stole legitimate credit card numbers and encoded the stolen credit card numbers onto blank cards. Members of the group then allegedly attempted and/or made purchases at various retail stores in the South Florida area, including Walmart, Winn Dixie, and area gas stations.
U.S. Attorney Acosta stated, “This prosecution highlights the success of interagency cooperation in helping to secure our airports and in stopping the flow of illegal narcotics. In addition, this investigation reminds us that credit card and identity theft crimes have become an integral part of other organized criminal activities in South Florida. We will continue to lead the fight against credit card fraud and identity theft.”
“This investigation and resulting prosecution confirms the commitment of federal and local law enforcement agencies to fight crime, sending a clear message that we will continue to investigate and prosecute those involved in criminal activity in our jurisdiction,” said Anthony V. Mangione, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Miami. “Thanks to the diligent efforts of all the agencies involved in this operation, ICE prevented a large amount of dangerous drugs from reaching the United States.”
“These indictments demonstrate the successful efforts of multiple agencies and DHS partners working together, to protect our homeland,” stated Thomas S., Winkowski, CBP’s Director of Filed Operations.
Mark Trouville, Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said, ““This investigation is an example of what cooperative law enforcement efforts can achieve. The DEA remains committed to working with our local and federal law enforcement partners, as well as our international counterparts, to dismantle international drug trafficking organizations smuggling drugs into our nation.”
William T. Sims, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, said, “This investigation illustrates the Secret Service’s commitment to safeguarding the integrity of our nation’s financial industry by investigating domestic and foreign criminal organizations that attempt to abuse our system for illicit gain.”
Miami Dade Police Director Robert Parker added, “For the past two years, representatives from multiple enforcement agencies have worked hand in hand to shut down a major narcotics operation. This collaboration has culminated in numerous federal indictments as well as the seizure of a large amount of cocaine and heroin. These drugs seized will never reach our streets and, mostly importantly, will never reach our children.”
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Miami-Dade Police Department. Mr. Acosta also thanked Miami Dade County and the Aviation Department for their cooperation and assistance during this investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrea Hoffman.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/ or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov/.