Despite the government shutdown, October turned out to be a very busy month for federal law enforcement agencies in Georgia, Florida and Texas. Federal investigator, collaborating with other state and local agencies indicted seventeen people in three separate investigations who authorities alleged had engaged in transnational conspiracies against the U.S.
On October 28, 2013, agents in Brownsville, Texas indicted nine members of the violent Mexican drug trafficking Gulf Cartel with 21 counts of laundering large sums of money between 2008 and 2012. According to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Texas, members of the money-laundering cell opened bank accounts at Bank of America in Brownsville, and then sent the account numbers to unknown individuals in Florida. The unknown individuals would then deposit cash in amounts under the $10,000 cash transaction reporting requirement. On the same day, Cartel members in Brownsville withdrew the cash in amounts under the $10,000 reporting requirement. After removing a small portion of the cash for payment, they gave the remaining money to another person, who transported the cash into Mexico. The press release identified those arrested as Oscar J. Aguilar, 37, Yurixi Guadalupe Vega-Martinez, 29, Bea Marie Fairbanks, 24, Mayte Ayde Diaz, 39, Lorena M. Moreno-Martinez, 39, Teodosa Gonzalez-Rodriguez, 32, and Yezenia V. Campos-Silva, 31, all of Brownsville, Yamileth Sinai Carballo, 20, and Miguel Jonathan Pereira, 21, of Bayview. One person remains at large. The release indicates that agents charged each of the defendants with one count of conspiracy and one count of operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business, which carries a maximum five-year-term of imprisonment per count. Agents further charged Aguilar, Diaz and Moreno-Martinez with conspiracy to commit international money laundering and further face 20 years in federal prison.
On October 25, 2013, the U.S. Attorney in Miami announced in a press release the indictment on alien smuggling resulting in death after their attempt to smuggle humans into the U.S. ended when the vessel capsized. Four of the fifteen people on the boat perished as a result. All were females identified in the indictment as “Jane Doe.” Naaman Davis, 53 and George Lewis, 35, both citizens of the Bahamas, face a maximum penalty of death if convicted. Federal agents also charged Lewis and three other passengers of Jamaican citizenship with Reentry after Deportation of a Person Convicted of an Aggravated Felony. Davis and one other passenger from Jamaica faced charges of Reentry after Deportation but had no prior felony convictions.
Finally, a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Augusta, Georgia announced that on October 18, 2013, FBI agents charged fourteen members of what Atlanta Field office FBI Special Agent in Charge Mark Giuliano identified as a ‘Mexico-based criminal enterprise.’ SAC Giuliano stated that members of the criminal enterprise are ‘alleged to have established its methamphetamine distribution base of operations within the Central Savannah River area.’ Agents arrested eleven of the fourteen identified as Florentino Binzha- Elisa, 46, of Warrenville, SC., Gilberto Fabona Gaona, 38, Jesus Avala Lombera, 32, Oscar Piedra, aka Oscar Hernandez, 39, Fidel Sanchez Garcia, 32, Tyler James Barcenas, 21, Naun Padilla, 34, Huber Romero, 37, all of Augusta. Henri Vertez Travis, 38, of Hephzibah, GA., Victor Eduardo Ovalle, Jr., 20, of Harlem, GA; and Jose Ines Davila, 34, of North Augusta, SC. Three of the fourteen remain at large with warrants pending for their arrest. If convicted of the drug trafficking conspiracy charge, each defendant faces a maximum of life in prison.
The agencies that conducted or participated in these investigations included the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Border Patrol, DEA, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the Cameron County, Texas Sheriff’s Office, the Brownsville, Texas Police Department, Richmond County, Georgia Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia State Pardons and Parole Office.