19 charged in nationwide drug trafficking, money laundering conspiracy

TAMPA, Fla. — Nineteen individuals in Florida and California were charged in Tampa Federal Court on Wednesday for their involvement in a nationwide drug-trafficking and money-laundering conspiracy, following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Fourteen of the individuals are already in custody and the additional five are still being sought.

Charged were: Victor Yanez Gutierrez, 35, of Madera, Calif.; Jorge Luis Yanez Gutierrez, 36, address unknown; Maria L. Aguilar, 29, Madera; Jose Jorge Monteon Delfin, 42, Los Angeles; Edgar Yanez Gutierrez, 25, address unknown; Robert Hayes, 35, Tampa; Noemi Monteon, 37, Los Angeles; Gabriel Salazar Pena, 43, Manteca, Calif.; Enrique Hernandez Ramirez, 41, Dade City, Fla.; Jabulani Bendar Seay, 34, Tampa; Gwendolyn Shank, 54, Tampa; Carlos Byron Smith, 32, Tampa; Alejandro Arias Perez, 40, Dade City; Jennifer Lynn Thomas, 32, Dade City; Ronald Lee Carrick, 50, Zephyrhills, Fla.; Chester John Floyd, 48, Lithia, Fla.; Luis Manuel Garcia, 38, Plant City, Fla.; Pedro Lazaro Rodriguez, 27, Seffner, Fla.; and Jerry Lloyd Nichols, 54, Lakeland, Fla.

If convicted on all counts, each faces a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in federal prison and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The indictments also notify the charged individuals that the United States is seeking to forfeit any proceeds or assets which were acquired as a result of their drug trafficking activities.

More than $1.5 million in cash and six luxury vehicles have been seized as part of this ongoing operation. The vehicles seized include an Infinity sports utility vehicle, two Range Rovers, a Bentley, a Camaro and a Mercedes sports utility vehicle.

According to the indictments, which began in 2009 through June of this year, the defendants knowingly and willfully agreed with each other and others to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. During the same time period, they also agreed with each other and others to launder their drug proceeds by knowingly conducting and attempting to conduct financial transactions, with monies earned from drug trafficking; knowingly conducting and attempting to conduct financial transactions with drug proceeds, in a manner designed to conceal the fact that the funds were drug proceeds; and knowingly engaging in and attempting to engage in financial transactions with drug proceeds of more than $10,000.

These cases are being investigated by ICE HSI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Tampa Police Department and other federal, state, and local agencies as part of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation.

They will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Josephine W. Thomas and Christopher F. Murray.