Jury Finds New York City Man Guilty of Federal Drug Trafficking Offenses
PITTSBURGH – After deliberating for approximately one hour, on December 12, 2018, a federal jury of six men and six women found Juan Wilquin Hernandez-Bourdier guilty of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and possession of heroin, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
Hernandez-Bourdier was tried before United States District Judge Reggie B. Walton in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
According to Assistant United States Attorney Ross E. Lenhardt who prosecuted the case, the evidence presented at trial established that on January 26, 2016, Hernandez-Bourdier was the front seat passenger in a 2002 Honda Odyssey minivan as it travelled eastbound across Route 80 in Western Pennsylvania. Because the windows were darkly tinted and the vehicle changed lanes without signaling, Trooper Reed Grenci stopped the vehicle.
Grenci, a trained interdiction officer, noted many signs that the two occupants may possibly be smuggling illegal items or money and requested permission to search the vehicle. Since Trooper Grenci knew that the same type of vehicles had resulted in police locating a hidden aftermarket compartment in the rear bumper area, he went under the rear of the vehicle and observed the “trap”.
Once the hydraulically-operated trap was opened, it was found to hold four rectangular blocks which contained a total of 4,195 grams of heroin. The word “Ferrari” and the Ferrari horse symbol were found to be stamped into the kilograms of heroin. The outer layers of wrapping on those blocks consisted of coffee grounds and plastic wrap.
Lab analysis located two fingerprints of the driver on the kilogram packages and a box of plastic wrap and coffee grounds were contained within a backpack in the van. Lab analysis of a toothbrush in the backpack with the coffee grounds and plastic wrap revealed the DNA of Hernandez-Bourdier. The trial included evidence that the driver and passenger were related by marriage and that they were both originally from the Dominican Republic, but were living in the greater New York City area.
A Task Force Officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) testified that a gram of heroin (for comparison’s sake, it was noted that in court that one gram is the same amount in a common package of coffee sweetener) contains approximately 50 “stamp bags,” or single serving dosage units of heroin, and that while many factors can affect the price of a stamp bag, single bags are commonly sold for approximately $10 each in Western Pennsylvania. As such, the amount of heroin located would be nearly 210,000 stamp bags worth more than $2 million on the street.
The driver of the vehicle, Habys Meran, while on house arrest, cut off his house arrest bracelet and fled. He is currently a wanted fugitive and individuals with information regarding his whereabouts may contact the United States Marshals Service Fugitive Unit at 412-644-6627. All individuals may remain anonymous and monetary rewards are possible.
Judge Walton scheduled sentencing for May 10, 2019 at 11 a.m., after the preparation of a Pre-Sentence Report by the United States Probation Office. In most circumstances, the law provides for a total sentence of at least 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based on the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Pending sentencing, the court remanded the defendant to jail in the custody of the United States Marshals Service.
The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) joined forces to conduct the investigation that led to the prosecution of Hernandez-Bourdier, with the valuable assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as laboratory analysis by the PSP and HSI labs.
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