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3 individuals sentenced for trafficking 918 kilograms of cocaine into the US

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Three individuals were sentenced Wednesday to a collective sentence of 49 years for trafficking 918 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated value of $22 million. The sentence follows a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (HSI) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigation.

Cecilio Mercedes de la Cruz, Victor Manuel Carela and Manuel Guzman de los Santos, all citizens of the Dominican Republic, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Francisco A. Besosa to 11, 16 and 22 years in prison, respectively.

On Sept. 17, 2012, Puerto Rico Police Department's United Forces for Rapid Action (FURA), working jointly with HSI and Caribbean Corridor Strike Force partners, detected a suspicious vessel with two outboard engines reaching the shores of Tuna Beach in the town of Maunabo. Immediately after detection, FURA, with the assistance of the U.S. Border Patrol, proceeded to intercept the vessel which arrived at the beach carrying 811 bricks of cocaine.

Mercedes de la Cruz, Carela and Guzman de los Santos were arrested in conjunction with the seizure.

The Caribbean Corridor Strike Force is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney's Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. It is part of the high intensity drug trafficking area and organized crime drug enforcement task forces that investigate South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of HSI, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and FURA.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected narcotics smuggling and related information by calling 1-866-DHS-2ICE.