HSI, Caribbean Corridor Strike Force seize 330 kilograms of cocaine, arrest 6

June 8, 2012

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on June 8, 2012 released the following:

“SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), officers and special agents assigned to the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force arrested six Dominican Republic nationals on drug trafficking charges earlier this week. The individuals tried to introduce 330 kilograms and one kilogram of heroin with an estimated street value of $8 million into the United States.

“Through these arrests and seizures we are sending a clear message Puerto Rico will not be a safe haven for criminals looking to ship drugs into Puerto Rico and the United States,” said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “ICE and its federal and local partners are committed to working together to stop the flow of illegal narcotics into Puerto Rico.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers onboard a marine surveillance vessel detected the six men aboard a suspicious 25-foot unmarked fiberglass boat transiting illegally towards Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received notification from a CBP officer of the ongoing situation and proceeded to divert the Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus to interdict the suspect vessel.

The Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus arrived on scene, interdicted the suspect vessel and detained Jairo Torres-Balbuena, 29; José Manuel Rodríguez, 30; Anheli Regalado, 25; Berner Balbuena-Perreaux, 38; Jorge King, 52; and Juan Polanco-Rodríguez, 35; following the discovery of 15 bales of suspected contraband which later tested positive for cocaine and heroin during a field test.

Coast Guard personnel transferred custody of the six Dominicans, the suspect vessel, and the seized contraband to awaiting HSI special agents in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.

Those arrested were transferred to the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico Metropolitan Detention Center awaiting the outcome of their case. They had their initial hearing before US Magistrate Judge Bruce McGiverin June 6 and remain detained.

The strike force is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. It is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of HSI, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, Coast Guard, CBP and Puerto Rico Police Department’s Joint Forces for Rapid Action.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Luis Enrique Ramirez, Former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Inspector, Sentenced to 204 Months in Federal Prison

July 6, 2011

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas on July 6, 2011 released the following:

“Former Customs and Border Protection Inspector Sentenced to Lengthy Prison Term

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspector Luis Enrique Ramirez, 39, has been sentenced to a total of 204 months in federal prison, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Ramirez, of Brownsville, Texas, was convicted in March 2011, following his guilty plea to conspiring to transport certain aliens within the United States, bringing in a certain aliens into the United States for private financial gain, accepting bribes in his capacity as a government official and possessing with intent to distribute a quantity exceeding five kilograms of cocaine.

Ramirez, 38, of Brownsville, pleaded guilty on March 3, 2011. At that time, Ramirez admitted that between November 2007 and January 2009, while employed as a CBP officer, he was a member of a drug trafficking organization. He admitted that on Dec. 17, 2008, he allowed a co-conspirator to drive a vehicle laden with 12 Kilograms of cocaine into the United States via a vehicle primary inspection lane he was manning at the time. Ramirez also admitted that between July 2008 through January 2009, he conspired with others to bring illegal aliens into the United States and to transport them furthering their illegal presence in the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain and accepting bribes to influence him in his official capacity as a CBP officer.

Ramirez received the statutory maximum 120 months for each of the two counts of alien smuggling counts, the statutory maximum of 180 months for the bribery conviction, as well as 204 months for drug smuggling. All sentences are to run concurrently. Following his prison term, he will also serve 10 years of supervised release. As part of his sentence, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen also entered a money judgment in the amount of $500,000 against the defendant, a sum representing the proceeds of Ramirez’s criminal activity, to the United States.

Ramirez’s sentence includes upward adjustments or increases in his calculated sentencing guideline range because he recruited other individuals, he was a public official, he received more than one bribe, he received more than $5,000 in bribes and he was in a high level or sensitive position and used his position as a public official to facilitate the illegal entry persons and narcotics into United States.

Ramirez has been in custody since his arrest where he will remain pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future where he will serve out his sentence.

This case was investigated by agents of the FBI’s Brownsville Resident office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Office of Professional Responsibility, Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General and CBP – Office Of Internal Affairs. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Castro.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Mexican Woman Convicted of Attempting to Smuggle Teddy Bears and Pillows Stuffed with Cash Into Mexico

July 1, 2011

U.S. Attorneys Office Southern District of Texas on June 30, 2011 released the following press release:

“McALLEN, Texas – A 33-year-old Mexican national has been convicted of bulk cash smuggling in her attempt to smuggle more than $270,000 stuffed in teddy bears and pillows, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Jeanette Barraza-Galindo, 33, of Monterrey, Mexico, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane to attempting to smuggle into Mexico $277,556 in U.S. currency concealed in two teddy bears and two pillows.

At today’s hearing, Barraza admitted that on March 1, 2011, the date of her arrest, she, intending to evade a currency reporting requirement under the law, knowingly and intentionally concealed $277,556 in cash inside two teddy bears and two pillows and attempted to smuggle the currency from the United States to Mexico.

On March 1, 2011, Barraza was a passenger aboard a bus stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Hidalgo, Texas, Port of Entry. The bus was heading outbound toward Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers explained the currency reporting requirements to Barraza. When asked if she had more than $10,000 in cash to declare, Barraza gave a negative declaration even though she knew that she was carrying more than $10,000 in cash. However, the CBP officers searched her teddy bears and pillows and found a total of $277,556 in cash in the items. Immigration and Customs Enforcement continued the investigation which subsequently lead to the charges against Barraza.

As part of a plea agreement announced in court today, Barraza has agreed to forfeit the $277,556 in currency to the United States.

A federal criminal complaint was filed after Barraza’s arrest and a federal grand jury in McAllen then indicted her for bulk cash smuggling. Barraza has been held with no bond since her arrest and will remain in custody pending her sentencing hearing scheduled for Sept. 8, 2011, before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane. Barraza faces up to five years in federal prison without parole and a fine of up to $250,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Sully is prosecuting the case.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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