The federal justice department, DEA, and many federal agencies continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute the possession, smuggling and distribution and sale of illegal drugs. The penalties for Schedule I and II drug smuggling are substantial. According to the federal guidelines, an individual’s first offense for heroin (one kilogram or more) and cocaine or cocoa derivatives (5 kilograms or more) can result in a fine up to $10 million and 10 years to life in prison.
Trafficking drugs through the mail
Recently, the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia reported a conviction in a high-profile and sophisticated cocaine smuggling and money laundering case. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg found Marlon Matthew Pittman guilty of an elaborate smuggling scheme. He, Vladimir Collazo-Florido and Carlos Gonzalez-Catala were convicted in separate trials of shipping cocaine placed in kid’s toys and cans of powdered milk cans through the U.S. Mail from Puerto Rico to Atlanta, Georgia.
In a press release issued from the Northern District of Georgia, U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak, said, “These drug smugglers endangered countless people from Puerto Rico to Atlanta and beyond. Ironically, it was the money laundering scheme they created to hide their criminal enterprise that first caught the attention of investigators and led to their downfall.”
Trafficking and money laundering operation
Collozo-Florido smuggled more than 200 kilograms aboard cargo ships that traveled from Columbia into Puerto Rico. Then he packaged the cocaine inside of toys and common household items and mailed them to Pittman in Atlanta. The drug sales in the U.S. produced large amounts of cash. On one occasion, Pittman flew back to Puerto Rico to pay Collozo-Florido. He took a commercial airline flight and was carrying a duffle bag that contained $90 million in cash.
But federal authorities discovered the drug smuggling ring through wire transfers and money laundering operations. The federal authorities and the banking industry are consistently looking for suspicious and criminal banking activity. Pittman opened a rental car business and wired large amounts cash from the rental car agency to other business bank accounts.
Detecting complex drug smuggling operations
Federal authorities detected the drug ring when they started seeing these large wire transfers from the Atlanta rental car company. Agents initiated a multi-agency investigation leading to the discovery of this covert operation.
The federal justice system found all three defendants guilty, and they received substantial sentences according to federal guidelines. The federal judges imposed a sentence of 17 years in prison for Marlon Matthew Pittman, 11 years and four months for Vladimir Collazo-Florido and three years and three months for Carlos Gonzalez-Catala.