SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTGS) — Three Florida men were arrested after allegedly trying to smuggle nearly $2 million worth of cocaine from the Dominican Republic through the Port of Savannah.
Officials say on May 26, investigators with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Customs and Border Protection and local law enforcement agencies discovered 50 kilograms of cocaine concealed inside the walls of cardboard boxes containing fresh oranges. The street value of the seized drugs is estimated to be $1.75 million.
“As the Port of Savannah continues to see growth in volume of cargo processed each year, criminal organizations will continue to try and smuggle their poison into the U.S.,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Today’s arrests should serve as a warning to those organizations that law enforcement in Savannah will defend our ports and protect our communities.”
Investigators removed the drugs from the boxes but kept surveillance on the delivery. It was delivered to a nearby warehouse on May 29. Juan De Jesus Gutierrez, 45, Jonathan Mejia, 41, and Ricardo Sanchez Ortiz, 46, all of Kissimmee, Fla., were taken into custody after opening the container and unloading the boxes, according to officials.
All three are charged in a criminal complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court with attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to import cocaine, according to officials.
The Southern District of Georgia says they are still investigating the case.
AUTHOR: MARAH BROCK