Honduran illegal immigrant caught after boating mishap pleads guilty to human trafficking, drug smuggling

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On Thursday, Honduran national Darrell Martinez, 41, pleaded guilty to his role in an international human smuggling and cocaine distribution scheme. The charges stem from an attempt between Martinez and six co-conspirators to bring 23 Honduran nationals and 23 kilograms of cocaine to the US. 

According to the Department of Justice,  Martinez faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for “conspiracy to unlawfully bring aliens to the United States for financial gain and conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine hydrochloride.”

Martinez and the others attempted to execute their plan to bring illegal immigrants and drugs across the Gulf of Mexico from Utila, Honduras to Cocodrie, Louisiana. They were arrested after their boat broke down along the way and was towed to shore by the US Coast Guard off the coast of Louisiana in February 2022. 

Josue Flores-Villeda, another co-conspirator, pleaded guilty to his role on March 30. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 6.

In their press release, the DOJ said that the Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA) is investigating the incident.

The task force was established in 2021 to “marshal the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to enhance US enforcement efforts against the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling and trafficking groups operating in Mexico and the Northern Triangle Countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.”

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) and the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) are assisting in the investigation. The report noted, “The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present particular national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns. ECT has dedicated investigative, intelligence, and prosecutorial resources. ECT coordinates and receives assistance from other U.S. government agencies and foreign law enforcement authorities.”

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