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Drug dealer arrested on federal drug charges following ICE and DEA investigation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 37-year-old drug dealer was arrested yesterday in Miami's International Airport after he disembarked a flight from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic following a joint investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Franklyn Estevez, a/k/a Daniel Estevez, is accused of leading, managing, and organizing major cocaine trafficking ventures in the United States and elsewhere. According to the indictment and other court documents filed in a Jacksonville federal court, beginning on or about March 2005 through Aug. 2007, in Duval County and elsewhere, Estevez knowingly and intentionally conspired to possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance. It is further alleged that this violation involved five kilograms or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine. If convicted, Estevez faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

On April 4, 2006, the U.S. Coast Guard seized 53 kilograms of cocaine from the stolen sailing vessel "Salako" in the Caribbean Sea near Jamaica. According to statements made by cooperating defendants in the investigation, Estevez allegedly orchestrated the drug load from Cartagena, Colombia. Estevez also sought to smuggle other loads of drugs to the U.S. via the Middle District of Florida during the course of the investigation.

To date, two defendants have been convicted in what has been called "Operation Salako" in Jacksonville, Fla. A French national, Bernard Longepee, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a term of 97 months imprisonment. An Italian national, Manuel Ippoliti, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a term of 112 months imprisonment. Estevez is expected to make his initial appearance later this month before a United States Magistrate Judge in Jacksonville.

The arrest announced today was the culmination of a three year joint investigation conducted by the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, the DEA in Jacksonville, Fla., Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Cartagena, Colombia, and ICE. The French National Police also assisted.

Estevez is linked to Consolidated Priority Organization Targets designated by President Bush as "command and control" drug trafficking threats to the United States. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Julie Hackenberry Savell of the Jacksonville Division of the United States Attorney's Office of the Middle District of Florida.

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.

Today's announcement was made by United States Attorney Robert E. O'Neill, Mark R. Trouville, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Miami Division of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Robert Weber, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Tampa Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Thomas Hurlbert, Jr., the United States Marshal for the Middle District of Florida.