Pilot Charged In Cocaine Trafficking Scheme Extradited From Paraguay
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England, today announced that RONIER SANCHEZ ALONSO, 46, a citizen of Mexico who is charged in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy, has been extradited from Paraguay.
On December 14, 2016, a grand jury in Bridgeport returned an indictment charging Sanchez and others with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on board an aircraft registered in the U.S. Sanchez has been detained since he was arrested in Asuncion, Paraguay, on March 25, 2021.
Sanchez is scheduled to be arraigned today at 2:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas O. Farrish in Hartford.
As alleged in court documents, Sanchez conspired with others to transport approximately 1700 kilograms of cocaine from South America to the U.S. On August 6, 2016, Sanchez and Rupert De Las Casas flew a private jet, which was registered in the U.S., from the Dominican Republic to Venezuela where the cocaine was to be loaded onto the jet. De Las Casas was the pilot and Sanchez was the co-pilot. From Venezuela, the jet was to fly to Honduras where the cocaine would be loaded onto trucks for transport through Mexico into the U.S. A fake flight plan filed with Dominican authorities reported that the plane was traveling to Brazil. The plane crash-landed just short of a landing strip in Venezuela. Sanchez, De Las Casas and another co-conspirator evaded capture by Venezuelan authorities, and the cocaine was diverted back to Colombia.
U.S. Attorney Avery stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
De Las Casas, who last resided in Florida, pleaded guilty and is detained while awaiting sentencing.
Another co-conspirator, Arrinson De La Cruz, who had worked at an airport in the Dominican Republic and helped to coordinate the travel of the jet through the airport uninterrupted, was charged separately for his role in this scheme and other drug trafficking activity. De La Cruz, a citizen of the Dominican Republic who had resided in Wolcott, Connecticut, pleaded guilty and, on November 20, 2019, was sentenced to 144 months of imprisonment.
This investigation is being conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration New Haven Task Force, which includes members of the U.S. Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, Connecticut State Police and the New Haven, Hamden, West Haven, North Haven, East Haven, Branford, Ansonia, Meriden, Derby, Middletown, Naugatuck and Waterbury Police Departments.
U.S. Attorney Avery thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. State Department for coordinating the extradition proceedings in this matter, the U.S. Marshals Service for managing the defendant’s safe transport from Paraguay to the U.S., and Paraguayan Attorney General Sandra Quiñonez and her office for their assistance with the extradition.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Kale through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations through a prosecutor-led and intelligence-driven approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.