Three Florida men were charged in a conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine after the contraband was found in a fresh orange shipment. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia on June 3 reported the charges and the actions leading to them.
Juan De Jesus Gutierrez, 45, Jonathan Mejia, 41, and Ricardo Sanchez Ortiz, 46, all of Kissimmee, Florida, were charged in U.S. District Court. The charges were attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to import cocaine.
An investigation into contraband shipped from the Dominican Republic led investigators with several agencies to a shipping container on May 26. A subsequent search discovered approximately 50 kilograms of cocaine concealed inside the walls of cardboard boxes containing fresh oranges. The street value of the seized drugs is estimated to be $1.75 million.
With the cocaine removed from the shipment, investigators maintained surveillance of the container when it later was picked up and delivered May 29 to a rented warehouse nearby. Gutierrez, Meija and Ortiz were taken into custody when they arrived at the site, opened the container and began unloading the boxes.
“As the Port of Savannah continues to see growth in volume of cargo processed each year, criminal organizations will continue to try and smuggle their poison into the U.S.,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Today’s arrests should serve as a warning to those organizations that law enforcement in Savannah will defend our ports and protect our communities.”
The case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, the Savannah-Chatham Counter-Narcotics Task Force, the Georgia Ports Authority Police Department, the Savannah Police Department and the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marcela C. Mateo and Frank Pennington II.
Read the full report here.
Source: The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia
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