Leader of Guatemalan Drug Trafficking Organization that Smuggled Multi-Ton Quantities of Drugs Sentenced to 17.5 Years

For Immediate Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of California

For Further Information, Contact:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mokhtari (619) 546-8402

SAN DIEGO – Willian Estuardo Lemus-Lara, aka “Humilde,” a high-level cartel boss from Guatemala, was sentenced in federal court today to 210 months in federal prison.

According to public documents, Lemus-Lara was identified as the leader of a transcontinental criminal organization that moved multi-ton quantities of cocaine from South America via maritime smuggling routes to Guatemala and ultimately to conspirators in northwest Guatemala and Mexico, who in turn imported that cocaine into the United States.

Lemus-Lara, 51, was the head of the organization, and despite the best efforts of the United States to stymie his cocaine operation, he was a prolific trafficker. As the government described in its sentencing papers, a five-day snapshot of his operation gave unparalleled insight into Lemus-Lara’s cocaine trafficking prowess.  During a five-day span in May 2017, Lemus-Lara coordinated and oversaw a smuggling venture involving four cocaine-laden vessels. Through this investigation, three of those vessels were interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Guatemala FEN, which is Guatemala’s Naval Special Forces.  The vessels had between 810-914 kilograms of cocaine each.  A fourth boat made it through and delivered 814 kilograms of cocaine to Lemus-Lara and his organization.

Lemus-Lara was targeted as part of a long-term joint investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration.  The investigation has led to the indictment and extradition of several high-level South and Central American drug traffickers, including several, like Lemus-Lara, from Guatemala.

“This office is committed to aggressively pursuing leaders of drug trafficking organizations who use international waters as a corridor to smuggle cocaine to the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman.  “Today’s sentence marks the culmination of years of efforts by agents and prosecutors to keep those who flood the United States with drugs accountable for their actions.”

Grossman thanked the prosecution team and the law enforcement agencies for their excellent work on this case.

“This sentencing of Lemus is the culmination of years of collaborative efforts between HSI, DEA, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and government of Guatemala,” said Chad Plantz, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego. “The joint effort has significantly impacted this international criminal organization’s ability to import dangerous drugs into the United States.”

“International drug trafficking organizations are driving addiction and overdose deaths in the United States,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly S. Howe. “Today’s sentencing of Lemus-Lara is a win for DEA and our law enforcement partners.  We are committed to stopping these organizations from bringing large quantities of drugs into our country and holding their leaders accountable.”

This case 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.

DEFENDANTS                                                        Case Number 18CR0390-DMS

 Willian Lemus-Lara                                                  Age: 51                       Guatemala

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Count 1- Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine on Board a Vessel –

Title 46, U.S.C., Section 70503, 70506(b)

Maximum Penalty: Life in prison and $10 million fine

Count 2 – International Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances  –
Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 959, 960, 963

Maximum Penalty: Life in prison and $10 million fine

AGENCIES

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

U.S. Coast Guard

HSI Attaché Guatemala City, Guatemala

HSI Attaché Mexico City Mexico

Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs

Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations

Department of Justice, Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF)

Joint Task Force-Investigations (JTF-I)

Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S)

Updated February 2, 2023

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