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ICE HSI investigation nets 2 additional convictions for members of drug trafficking organization

TAMPA, Fla. – Two Florida men were convicted Monday on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Chester John Floyd, 48, of Lithia, Fla., and Pedro Lazaro Rodriguez, 27, of Seffner, Fla., were found guilty of conspiracy with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, 500 or more grams of methamphetamine and a quantity of marijuana.

According to evidence presented at trial, Floyd and Rodriguez were conspirators in a national drug trafficking and money laundering organization that stretched from Florida to California. Large quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana were shipped to various conspirators in the Tampa area via Federal Express and United Parcel Service. The narcotics were also transported via hidden compartments in luxury automobiles. Conspirators, including Floyd and Rodriguez, would receive narcotics on behalf of the organization and break them down for further distribution in the Tampa area. Rodriguez and other Tampa-based conspirators would also collect and conceal millions of dollars in drug proceeds that were either deposited into various bank accounts or transported back to California via commercial airlines.

Floyd was also found guilty of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. Rodriguez was also found guilty of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of drug trafficking, traveling in interstate commerce to distribute drug proceeds, and maintaining premises for the purpose of storing and distributing illegal narcotics.

Floyd faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in federal prison. Rodriguez faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in federal prison. Dates for their sentencing hearings have not been determined.

Floyd and Rodriguez were indicted on June 23.

In addition to Floyd and Rodriguez, the following conspirators have already pleaded guilty for their roles in this nationwide drug trafficking and money laundering organization:

  • Victor Yanez-Gutierrez (35, San Jose, Calif.);
  • Maria Lourdes Aguilar (29, San Jose, Calif.);
  • Gabriel Salazar Pena (43, Manteca, Calif.);
  • Jabulani Bendar Seay (34, Tampa, Fla.);
  • Carlos Byron Smith (32, Tampa Fla.);
  • Enrique Hernandez-Ramirez (41, Dade City, Fla.);
  • Juan Hernandez-Ramirez (42, Dade City, Fla.);
  • Jason Paul Hoelzel (42, Lakeland, Fla.);
  • Raquel Valdez-Polvos (20, San Jose, Calif.);
  • Fermin Yanez-Zabalza (25, San Jose, Calif.);
  • Ivan Aguilar-Sandoval (22, San Jose, Calif.);
  • Alejandro Arias-Perez (40, Dade City, Fla.);
  • Jennifer Lynn Thomas (32, Dade City, Fla.);
  • Ronald Lee Carrick (50, Zephyrhills, Fla.);
  • Luis Manuel Garcia (38, Plant City, Fla.); and
  • Jerry Lloyd Nichols (54, Lakeland, Fla.).

In addition to HSI, the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and other federal, state and local agencies participated in this investigation as part of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.