Leader of International Cocaine Trafficking Conspiracy Sentenced
RICHMOND, Va. – A Mexican man was sentenced today to 25 years in prison for his leadership role in transporting over 3,300 kilograms of cocaine for a large-scale Guatemalan drug trafficking organization (DTO) operating in Central America, as part of a coordinated international law enforcement investigation codenamed Operation Go Explorers.
According to court documents, Edgar A. Quinonez-Salazar, 40, was extradited to the United States in September 2017, served as a high-level leader within the DTO. In this leadership role, Quinonez organized cocaine transportation networks, negotiated cocaine purchases and sales of cocaine on behalf of the DTO, oversaw the construction of a semi-submersible vessel to transport cocaine, directed the movement of cocaine loads, and served as trusted advisor to the leader of the DTO.
Operating throughout Central America, Quinonez knowingly orchestrated the movement of 3,339 kilograms of cocaine from Costa Rica to the Guatemalan-Mexican border on behalf of the DTO. In May 2016, Quinonez directed the use of violence against co-conspirators in an effort to locate approximately 500 kilograms of cocaine suspected to be stolen from the DTO off the Pacific coast of Guatemala. In September 2016, Guatemalan law enforcement authorities seized the semi-submersible vessel under construction by Quinonez and the DTO in Guatemala.
Operation Go Explorers was investigated as part of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Scott W. Hoernke, Acting Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erik S. Siebert, Peter S. Duffey, and Heather H. Mansfield prosecuted the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:16-cr-67.
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