TAMPA, Fla. — A Guatemalan drug smuggler was extradited to Tampa Friday, following an investigation by the Panama Express Strike Force, a task force that targets maritime smuggling. The strike force consists of several federal agencies, including: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Drug Enforcement Administration; the FBI; the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service; the Joint Interagency Task Force – South; and, the United States Marshals Service. The Guatemala government and Guatemalan law enforcement agencies also assisted with the investigation.
Alma Lucrecia Hernandez-Preciado, aka "La Tia," 40, of Tecun Uman, Guatemala, was indicted in the Middle District of Florida Sept. 22, 2011, for violating the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act.
According to the indictment, Hernandez-Preciado helped organize the maritime smuggling of cocaine shipments into the United States. She was allegedly involved in a May 2011 drug smuggling venture where the crew of a go-fast boat was interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard off the coast of Guatemala, and law enforcement authorities seized 347 kilograms of cocaine. Hernandez-Preciado is charged with participating in a conspiracy with others to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. She is also charged with helping others distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine.
Hernandez-Preciado was arrested in Guatemala Oct. 10, 2011. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.