Drug Traffickers caught red-handed!

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 15, No. 31            August 4, 2005

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F ive San Pedro residents remain in Mexican custody after allegedly fleeing from Belize, Mexican and United States authorities and allegedly transporting over a ton of cocaine. On Wednesday, July 27th, 2005, the Belize Anti-Drug Unit, along with the Belize Defense Force’s Coast Guard, began to pursue a “suspicious” skiff off the shores of San Pedro Town. The three-motor skiff entered international waters, which lead the Belizean authorities to contact Mexican authorities, as well as the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

   Mexican counterparts took to the chase, asking those aboard to stop the boat. A rapid response team was called out along with two helicopters, but those aboard the boat did not respond to the request. Upon intercepting the skiff 29 miles (70 kilometers) southeast of Xcalak, Quintana Roo, and the order was given to Mexican authorities to “take out” the engines. One of the boat’s passengers, Honduran national, Jesus Castillo Orellano was shot on the ear. It is unknown whether the occupants of the skiff, who were armed with a rifle and two nine-millimeter guns, fired against the authorities.

   Upon capturing the skiff, Hilliam Martinez, 25; Kevin Lincoln Smith, 25; Miguel Pérez, 45; and Francisco Núñez, 48; all residents of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye were apprehended. The individuals along with their cargo including large drums, a satellite telephone, two cellular phones, two VHS radios and a global positioning unit were transported by authorities to Cozumel. Once in Cozumel, they were handed over to the Ministerio Público de la Federación (MPF) where they remained heavily guarded by personnel from la Secretaría de Marina-Armada de México.

   Cozumel sources reported that the whereabouts of the injured occupant is unknown. It is believed that he was transported to the Military Hospital of the Navy Sector in Mexico City for medical treatment, and his room was heavily guarded by the Navy sector. He remains there in a state of coma.

   The cargo was inventoried at the Mexican Navy base before agent Juan Luis Molina at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday and officially ended at 5:00 a.m. on Friday. According to Por Esto, included in the inventory were 50 bundles containing 25 packets each of cocaine, weighing a total of 1,350 kilos and 458 grams (2,976 pounds) was recovered from the boat. This cargo will remain at the base until it can be destroyed.

   Four of the five individuals appeared before the MPF earlier this week, along with their defense lawyer Marco Antonio Gómez Rodríguez, of the firm “Asesoría Legal.” According to Por Esto, the lawyer did not divulge who hired him and how he made contact with the criminals with whom he has been in constant communication since Sunday and instructed them not speak to authorities until it was time to present their formal statements. During their hearing, the four accused listened carefully to the charges against them that include: violation of the Federal Law against organized delinquency, crimes resulting from illegal entry, possession and transportation of narcotics, violation of Federal Law of Fire Arms, as well as weapons used exclusively by the army.

   When speaking before the MPF, the accused’s statements were very contradictory. Some members of the group stated that they went out lobster fishing and found the boat with its contents. They said that they were going to turn the drugs to the police but keep the boat and its three motors when they were caught.

   Another statement was that the group was waiting for a sixth individual who was going to wait for them at a predestined place with another shipment after which they would turn the drugs in to the proper authorities. One of the individuals mentioned that they did not realize where they were and got scared when they saw the helicopters looming above and finally decided to turn themselves in when Jesus Castillo Orellana was shot.

   The case against Orellana will be put on hold until his release from the hospital. The alleged smugglers will be given a chance to appeal their charges, however due to the severity of the crime; they will not be allowed bail. The culprits were scheduled to be transported to Cancun on August 4th at 4:30 p.m. which is where the District Judge will proceed.

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