News Release
April 18, 2007

Twenty-eight Charged in Drug Importation and Credit Card Scheme

APR 18 -- Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Miami Field Division, R. Alexander Acosta, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony V. Mangione, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), 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 28 individuals for their alleged involvement in a large-scale drug importation and distribution organization and fraudulent credit card scheme.

The first indictment charges 27 individuals with various counts of narcotics trafficking involving the 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. The 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. To date a total of 237 kilograms (521.4 pounds) of cocaine and 37 kilograms (81.4 pounds) 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. These defendants are charged for their alleged participation in a fraudulent credit card scheme. Federal agents discovered the credit card 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.

Mark Trouville, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Miami Field Division, 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 smugglings drugs into our nation."

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." Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the DEA, ICE, U.S. Secret service, 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.

"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 ICE Office of Investigations, 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 Field Operations.

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."