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Leader of cocaine smuggling organization sentenced to 10 years in prison

NEWARK, N.J. – The extradited leader of an organization that smuggled cocaine aboard commercial airlines from the West Indies to England via the United States was sentenced in federal court Monday to 120 months in prison. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration's New Jersey Division – in coordination with police officers from the West Midlands Police Complex Casework Unit in Birmingham, England.

Roger Folkes, 40, who was extradited from Jamaica in November 2010, previously pleaded guilty to a superseding indictment charging him with conspiracy to import and export cocaine and was remanded to custody without bail. Folkes entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh, who also imposed Monday's sentence.

"Today's sentencing again demonstrates HSI's commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to stop the illegal movement of drugs into the country," said Andrew McLees, acting special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Newark. "Criminal drug smuggling operations threaten the security of the nation and endanger our communities."

According to documents filed in this and related cases and statements made in court: Roger Folkes admitted that directly or through intermediaries, he, his brother Romeo Folkes, 28, and Mervin Francis, 36, acquired cocaine in Jamaica and St. Lucia, concealed it in luggage, and provided that cocaine-filled luggage to drug couriers who transported it on commercial airlines to Great Britain after making intermediate stops in the United States.

Roger Folkes also admitted that he conspired to recruit and pay couriers and arrange payment for smuggled drugs. The charges arose from an international investigation into narcotics trafficking that resulted in multiple narcotics seizures and the guilty pleas of 13 individuals.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Cavanaugh sentenced Roger Folkes to five years of supervised release. Francis pleaded guilty to the same charge and was sentenced in August 2011 to 40 months in prison. Romeo Folkes pleaded guilty in May 2011 and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 31, 2011.