United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the return of an indictment charging Nelson Armando (52, Ecuador), Jimmy Espinal (50, Ecuador), and Christian Rodriguez-Sanchez (25, Guatemala) with possession with the intent to distribute and conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. If convicted, each faces up to life in federal prison and a $10 million fine for each count.
This indictment arose out of a June 15, 2018, interdiction of a drug smuggling vessel in international waters by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter VENTUROUS. As part of the interdiction, the USCG seized approximately 741 kilograms of cocaine.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) comprised of agents and analysts from the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force South. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Nicholas G. DeRenzo.