Guyana is featured prominently in the latest major international crack down on drug cartels in the New York area. The 15 count indictment was unsealed on Tuesday in the Eastern District of New York Federal Court and details a major drug smuggling ring that involved drug cartels in the U.S and Italy who were relying on links in Guyana to ferry more than 1000 pounds of cocaine via containers to the United States then on to Italy.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations seven defendants were charged with narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and firearms offenses based, in part, on their participation in a transnational heroin and cocaine trafficking conspiracy involving the ‘Ndrangheta, one of Italy’s most powerful organized crime syndicates.
“The defendants—‘Ndrangheta member Raffaele Valente, also known as “Lello”; Gambino associate Franco Lupoi; Bonanno associate Charles Centaro, also known as “Charlie Pepsi”; Dominic Ali; Alexander Chan; Christos Fasarakis; and Jose Alfredo Garcia, also known as “Freddy”—were arrested earlier Tuesday. In a coordinated operation, Italian law enforcement authorities arrested 17 members and associates of the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria, Italy, who were involved in the narcotics trafficking conspiracy, among other crimes”, the FBI said.
The seven defendants arrested in the United States are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday before Chief United States Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold, at the United States Courthouse.
The FBI said that as alleged, Lupoi also set into motion a plot to transport 500 kilograms of cocaine, concealed in frozen food, in shipping containers from Guyana to Calabria.
In the course of these conspiracies, Lupoi assured his confederates of his relationship with a corrupt port official in Gioia Tauro, indicating that in return for €200,000, the official could guarantee passage of unlimited containers of contraband. In New York, Lupoi joined forces with defendants Alexander Chan and Garcia to orchestrate the Guyana-Italy cocaine conspiracy.
In conversations recorded by the undercover agent, the conspirators discussed their connections to Mexican drug cartels operating in Guyana, South America, and plotted to transport 500 kilograms of cocaine internationally, hidden in shipments of frozen fish or pineapples. On the Italian side, Ursino and his co-conspirators planned to use a fish importation company to receive the shipment. As set forth in Italian court documents, the conspiracy slowed when shipping containers originating from the same Guyanese shipping company were seized in Malaysia and found to contain more than $7 million in cocaine hidden in pineapples and coconut milk.
Guyanese drug enforcement officials are expected to conduct their own probe in wake of the latest case in the United States.