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5 Honduran men charged in drug smuggling operation

$80 million worth of cocaine seized

MIAMI - On Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents in Miami arrested Loreto Norales Herrera, 33, Vidal Castillo Marin, 44, Pedro Francisco Perez Lobo, 43, Jose Arnulfo Euseda, 32, and Fredy Ricardo Romero, 43, all of Honduras, on charges of cocaine trafficking.

They made their initial appearances in court on Tuesday and attended a detention hearing Thursday at 10 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge John O'Sullivan.

The criminal complaint charges the defendants with possession with intent to distribute cocaine on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

On Aug. 3, at approximately 1:59 p.m., the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Forward was conducting a routine maritime patrol in international waters off the Honduran coastline. During this patrol, the Cutter Forward approached a Honduran-flagged fishing vessel, named the Islena, approximately 15 nautical miles outside of Honduran territorial seas. Later that afternoon, at approximately 6:25 p.m., a Coast Guard team boarded the vessel and observed approximately 11 bales on the deck of the vessel. These bales field-tested positive for the presence of cocaine. Further investigation led to the discovery of an additional 77 bales, for a total of 88 bales on board the vessel. Each bale contained numerous kilogram-sized bricks of cocaine.

The five crew members were then transported to Miami and arrested by ICE special agents. The 88 bales of suspected cocaine were moved to a secure facility, where it was determined that the cocaine weighed approximately 2,529 kilograms (or approximately 5,565 pounds), worth a street value of $80 million.

This investigation was conducted by ICE's HSI Marine Smuggling Unit in Miami, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Miami-Dade Police Department.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin M. Davis.