Two Mexican drug traffickers charged with the murder of a Mexican soldier and conspiring to import cocaine into the United States
NEW YORK – DEA New York Division Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman announced that German Gomez-Castruita and Benjamin Contreras-Rangel were charged in a criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, murdering a Mexican military officer in the course of the cocaine-importation conspiracy, and related weapons offenses involving the use and possession of machineguns.
“The murder of SEDENA Corporal Emiliano Medina-Ramirez is devastating to law enforcement worldwide and is symbolic of the risks law enforcement encounter in the line of duty,” said Special Agent in Charge Donovan. “Violence follows drug trafficking to every country, city, and state. The defendants’ desperate attempts to shoot their way out of arrest failed, and the fallout has led them to face the U.S. rule of law. I commend our law enforcement partners in Mexico on this significant seizure and their pursuit to dismantle drug trafficking organizations responsible for fueling countless overdose deaths. DEA sends our deepest condolences to Corporal Medina-Ramirez’ family and colleagues at SEDENA.”
“German Gomez-Castruita and Benjamin Contreras-Rangel were allegedly part of a brazen attempt to land a plane full of cocaine on a remote highway in Mexico,” said U.S. Attorney Berman. “When Mexican authorities interceded, the defendants allegedly opened fire with automatic weapons, murdering a member of the Mexican military in the process. We mourn the senseless loss of a military officer committed to justice; and I commend our law enforcement partners for their courageous efforts in bringing these two allegedly dangerous drug traffickers to face criminal charges in the U.S.”
As alleged in the complaint unsealed in federal court:
On or about Jan. 27, 2020, DEA agents began tracking an aircraft traveling northbound from the Caribbean Coast of Venezuela. The aircraft landed on a remote highway in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo. Military Officers with Mexico’s Secretaría de la Defense Nacional (SEDENA) met the aircraft near its landing location. Once there, SEDENA personnel observed a large number of vehicles and individuals involved in unloading the aircraft’s cargo.
Several individuals, including Gomez-Castruita and Contreras-Rangel, then engaged in a shootout with the SEDENA officers. In the course of the shooting, SEDENA Corporal Emiliano Medina-Ramirez was killed and three other SEDENA officers were injured. Following the shootout, Gomez-Castruita and Contreras-Rangel and others fled into the nearby jungle. Gomez-Castruita and Contreras-Rangel were subsequently apprehended. Law enforcement searched the vehicles near the aircraft and recovered, among other things, approximately 750 kilograms of cocaine, three assault rifles, and a large amount of ammunition.
Gomez-Castruita, 37, of Mexico, and Contreras-Rangel, 36, of Mexico, are charged with (1) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison; (2) murder while engaged in a narcotics-importation conspiracy, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty years and a maximum sentence of death; (3) using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug-trafficking crime resulting in death, which carries a maximum sentence of death; (4) using and carrying machineguns and destructive devices during, and possessing machineguns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, which carries a mandatory consecutive minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison; and (5) conspiring to use and carry machineguns and destructive devices during, and to possess machineguns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA’s New York Division, DEA’s Merida Resident Office, DEA’s Bogota Country Office, and the investigative work and heroic actions of Mexico’s Secretaría de la Defense Nacional.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael K. Krouse, Stephanie Lake, Daniel G. Nessim, Benjamin W. Schrier, and Kyle A. Wirshba are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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