(STL.News) – Melvin Martinez was arraigned earlier today at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn on an international cocaine distribution conspiracy charge. Martinez was arrested in the Dominican Republic in January 2020 and extradited to the United States yesterday. He was arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon and remanded pending trial.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), announced the extradition.
“As alleged, the defendant operated the levers of a cocaine pipeline from abroad, but not beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement committed to bringing international drug traffickers to justice for the harm they have caused in our communities,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. Mr. Donoghue thanked the Office of International Affairs of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division for its assistance with the extradition of the defendant.
“When Martinez was arrested in the Dominican Republic in January 2020, HSI and its law enforcement partners dealt a blow to his cocaine trafficking enterprise. His extradition is a major step forward after the detrimental impact Martinez’ organization had on the people of the United States and the greater New York City region,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh. “Through this multi-year, complex investigation, HSI New York and our partners at the United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, have proceeded in bringing the full force of the American Justice system to combat Martinez and his organization.”
According to court filings, between January 2015 and April 2015, Martinez and members of an international cocaine trafficking conspiracy organized shipments of cocaine in Venezuela, Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic for importation into the United States for distribution. In one instance, Martinez coordinated a 188 kilogram shipment of cocaine on a commercial airline flight from Venezuela to the Dominican Republic that was intended to be unlawfully distributed in the United States. In February 2015, law enforcement authorities in the Dominican Republic seized the cocaine at the airport in Santo Domingo.
The charge in the indictment is an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Martinez faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Philip Pilmar and Nomi D. Berenson are in charge of the prosecution.