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Contraband
12/22/2011

12 charged in Panamanian drug trafficking conspiracy

12 charged in Panamanian drug trafficking conspiracy
12 charged in Panamanian drug trafficking conspiracy
12 charged in Panamanian drug trafficking conspiracy
12 charged in Panamanian drug trafficking conspiracy

WILMINGTON, Del. – Twelve individuals from the Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland – and the country of Panama – have been charged in a 20-count indictment alleging international drug trafficking. The charges result from an extensive investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The nearly three-year investigation involved federal and local law enforcement agencies in the United States and Panama.

U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly, III, District of Delaware, announced that each defendant faces two counts of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and one kilogram or more of heroin. The indictment also charges them with conspiracy to smuggle five kilograms of cocaine and one kilogram or more of heroin into the United States.

"This investigation is a terrific example of how federal, state and local law enforcement, with support from our partners abroad, were able to successfully dismantle a major narcotics smuggling organization," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Philadelphia. "HSI will continue to utilize its broad authorities to target those individuals that pose direct threats to our communities."

For each of the offenses, the defendants face a maximum term of life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison.

Charged in the indictment are:

  • Efrain Dixon, 31, of Colon, Panama;
  • Ronaldo Edmund, 36, of Wilmington;
  • Kelvin Cook, 33, of Newark, Del.;
  • Julio Archer, 39, of Philadelphia;
  • Benjamin Carpenter, of Colon, Panama;
  • Roumik K. Banerjee, 24, of Kennett Square, Pa.;
  • Mia Poteat, 21, of New Castle, Del.;
  • Tina Simmons, 23, of Wilmington;
  • Sharon Butera, 51, of Elkton, Md.;
  • Dynisha J. Revel, 22, of Newark, Del.;
  • Raabia H. Munjir, 27, of Lansdowne, Pa.; and
  • Tessa Kay Snyder, 46, of North East, Md.

According to the indictment and court statements, U.S.-based defendants Edmund, Cook and Archer recruited primarily female couriers to travel to Panama to smuggle multiple kilograms of heroin and cocaine from Panama to the United States. Once in Panama, the couriers met with Panama-based defendants Carpenter and Dixon, where they were outfitted with cocaine and heroin. Most of the couriers smuggled the drugs in small compartments sewn into Lycra shorts in an effort to avoid law enforcement detection. After a number of couriers using that method were arrested, the organization began concealing the drugs within hair weaves and wigs. Regardless of the smuggling methods, once the couriers received the drugs they traveled by bus or airplane to Mexico, where they ultimately crossed or attempted to cross the U.S. border in Texas border towns.

"This case shows how international drug traffickers have a direct and significant impact upon our local communities, such as Wilmington, Delaware and Cecil County, Maryland," said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Vito Guarino. "Due to the cooperative efforts of the DEA and its law enforcement partners, a major regional smuggling organization has been identified, and its members brought to justice. In this instance, the defendants used well-planned techniques to smuggle large amounts of cocaine and heroin into the region over an extended period. However, their efforts failed due the combined efforts of the participating law enforcement agencies. DEA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to arrest those individuals responsible for distributing illegal controlled substances in the region."