SAN DIEGO — A federal judge sentenced a high-level Guatemalan cartel boss to 210 months in federal prison on Jan. 27.
According to public documents, officials identified William Estuardo Lemus-Lara, aka Humilde, 51, as the leader of a transcontinental criminal organization that moved tons of cocaine from South America via maritime smuggling routes to conspirators in northwest Guatemala and Mexico. Conspirators then smuggled the drugs into the United States.
Lemus-Lara was the head of the organization, and despite the United States’ best efforts to stymie his cocaine operation, he was a prolific trafficker. As the government described in its sentencing papers, a snapshot of Lemus-Lara’s operation provided unparalleled insight into his cocaine-trafficking prowess. During a five-day period in May 2017, Lemus-Lara coordinated and oversaw a smuggling venture involving four cocaine-laden vessels. Through this investigation, three of those vessels were interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Guatemala FEN, which is Guatemala’s Naval Special Forces. The vessels were carrying between 810 and 914 kilograms of cocaine each. A fourth boat made it through and delivered 814 kilograms of cocaine to Lemus-Lara and his organization.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration targeted Lemus-Lara as part of a long-term joint investigation. The investigation led to indictments and extradition of several high-level South- and Central American drug traffickers, including many, like Lemus-Lara, from Guatemala.
“This sentencing of Lemus is the culmination of years of collaborative efforts between HSI, DEA, the U.S. attorney’s office and government of Guatemala,” said HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz, “The joint effort has significantly impacted this international criminal organization’s ability to import dangerous drugs into the United States.”
“International drug trafficking organizations are driving addiction and overdose deaths in the United States,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly S. Howe. “Today’s sentencing of Lemus-Lara is a win for DEA and our law enforcement partners. We are committed to stopping these organizations from bringing large quantities of drugs into our country and holding their leaders accountable.”
“This office is committed to aggressively pursuing leaders of drug trafficking organizations that use international waters as a corridor to smuggle cocaine to the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Today’s sentence marks the culmination of years of efforts by agents and prosecutors to keep those who flood the United States with drugs accountable for their actions.”
This investigation was a collaborative effort between Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. attorney’s office; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Coast Guard; the HSI Attaché Guatemala City; the HSI Attaché Mexico City; the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, Office of Enforcement Operations, and Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force; Joint Task Force-Investigations; and the Joint Interagency Task Force-South.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
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