Three Guatemalan nationals who were extradited to the United States from Guatemala to face international cocaine trafficking charges appeared in federal court Feb. 17, before U.S. Magistrate Judges Bernard G. Skomal and Jill L. Burkhardt, who ordered that the defendants remain in custody pending trial.
The Guatemalan nationals are charged in three separate indictments stemming from Operation Guerrilla Unit, a long-term investigation spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.
Operation Guerrilla Unit is a multi-year investigation targeting high-level cocaine traffickers operating in northwest Guatemala and their suppliers. This investigation has offered one of the most comprehensive views to date of the inner workings of cocaine trafficking in Guatemala. High-level cocaine traffickers were targeted in a massive probe involving multiple countries, multiple law enforcement agencies around the United States, and a number of federal districts.
The Guatemalan nationals include Augusto Jean Carlo Castillo-Hernandez, aka “Metal,” Jorge Alexander Campos-Oliva, aka “Peluda,” and Fabio Josue Campos-Oliva, aka “Black Chivita.” The defendants made their initial court appearances on Friday, Feb. 11, in San Diego before Judge Skomal.
During the detention hearings, and in publicly filed documents, the defendants were described as organizers and leaders in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine in Guatemala and elsewhere. According to the indictment and other public records, each of the defendants and their co-conspirators are alleged to have coordinated the smuggling of multi-ton quantities of cocaine from South America to Guatemala with an ultimate destination of the United States.
Defendants Castillo-Hernandez, Jorge Campos-Oliva, and Fabio Campos-Oliva are each charged separately with participating in a conspiracy to distribute five kilograms and more of cocaine in Guatemala and elsewhere, knowing and intending that the cocaine would be unlawfully imported into the United States. In each of these cases, the conspiracy is alleged to have continued up to and including July 28, 2020.
On Aug. 31, 2021, Castillo-Hernandez, Jorge Alexander Campos-Oliva, and Fabio Josue Campos-Oliva were arrested in Guatemala pursuant to extradition requests from the United States. Guatemala subsequently granted their extradition, and on Feb. 10, 2022, they were extradited to the United States.
“The extradition of these individuals demonstrates the determination of HSI San Diego special agents, and our law enforcement partners to bring down critical transportation cells in the cocaine supply network from South America to the United States,” said Chad Plantz, Special Agent in Charge for HSI San Diego. “HSI will continue to pursue the dismantlement of this organization through further arrests and extraditions in its effort to combat the flow of dangerous drugs into the United States.”
“These extraditions send a message to drug traffickers around the world that the Department of Justice will aggressively pursue drug traffickers who earmark multi-ton quantities of cocaine for the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Randy S. Grossman. “Due to the collaborative efforts of Homeland Security Investigations and this Office, we will always seek to keep these drug traffickers accountable.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and all the law enforcement agencies for their hard work on this case.
The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in securing the arrest and extradition of the defendants.
This operation is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.