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Guatemalan woman convicted of smuggling drugs

TAMPA, Fla. – A federal jury found a Guatemalan woman guilty of smuggling drugs Friday in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force that includes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Prosecutors presented testimony from the U.S. Coast Guard, wiretap intercepts conducted by the Guatemalan National Police, cooperating witnesses in the smuggling conspiracy, as well as communications from Alma Lucrecia Hernandez-Preciado obtained by Panama Express Strike Force special agents as evidence during the trial.

That evidence detailed Hernandez-Preciado’s role in a series of maritime cocaine smuggling shipments from Ecuador to Guatemala. She was involved in one smuggling venture where the crew of a go-fast boat was interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard May 19, 2011, off the coast of Guatemala. During that interdiction, the U.S. Coast Guard seized 347 kilograms of cocaine.

Hernandez-Preciado was named in an indictment Sept. 22, 2011. Law enforcement arrested her in Guatemala Oct. 10, 2011, and extradited her to Tampa in February to face charges. She faces between 10 years and life in federal prison and will be sentenced Dec. 17.

In addition to HSI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Joint Interagency Task Force - South and the U.S. Marshals Service are part of the Panama Express Strike Force. The Guatemalan government and Guatemalan law enforcement agencies assisted with this investigation.