SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Following a joint operation between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), three individuals were arrested Thursday at the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (LMMIA) in San Juan for attempting to import, with the intent to distribute, more than six kilograms of heroin.
Thalia Jiménez-Cadilla, 30, of San Juan, and Kelvin Quiñones-Torres, 34, of Clearwater, Fla., were arrested by HSI and DEA special agents upon their arrival in San Juan from Caracas, Venezuela. A third individual, Ellis Sanchez-Medina, aka China, 39, of San Juan, who allegedly arrived at the LMMIA to pick-up Jiménez-Cadilla and Quinones-Torres, and their luggage, was also arrested.
On Sept. 5, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Miami International Airport selected Jiménez-Cadilla and Quiñones-Torres for a secondary inspection. The couple, whose final destination was Puerto Rico, had just arrived in Miami, Fla., from Caracas, Venezuela.
CBP's inspection revealed that both passengers had approximately six kilograms of heroin concealed within the seams of their checked luggage. HSI and DEA special agents from Miami and San Juan coordinated a joint enforcement action and allowed both passengers to proceed with their travel plans and continue on to Puerto Rico. The two individuals, and the woman who met them at the airport, were arrested shortly after they left the terminal.
"Simply stated, HSI will not tolerate the importation of illegal drugs into our jurisdiction," said Ángel Meléndez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "The diligent efforts of CBP and HSI Miami, together with our partners in the DEA, in detecting and investigating this failed attempt to introduce six kilograms of heroin into the United States, as well as their prompt and coordinated referral to HSI and DEA San Juan, made these arrests and seizure possible."
"Reducing violent crime in our community requires a commitment by federal and local law enforcement to combat the illegal drug trade and the violence associated with it," said Pedro Janer, acting special agent in charge of DEA in Puerto Rico. "This operation, which has been a joint effort between federal agencies, represents that type of commitment of resources. We believe that this seizure and these arrests will have a lasting community impact by reducing the amount of drugs in our communities."
The three individuals will be temporarily detained until a full detention hearing can be held next week. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Marshal D. Morgan. If convicted, those arrested face a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.