Dominican National Sentenced to 13 Years for Transporting Over 2,000 pounds of Cocaine Into the United States

Cocaine bust

A foreign national, Lazaro Viton Rodriguez, has been sentenced to 13 years and one month in prison for his involvement in an international cocaine trafficking conspiracy.

The scheme, spanning from 2014 to May 2019, saw Rodriguez playing a significant role in a drug trafficking network operating out of the Dominican Republic.

This network was responsible for transporting over 2,000 pounds of cocaine from South America through the Caribbean to the United States.

Rodriguez, a resident of the Dominican Republic, participated in purchasing, registering, and maintaining vessels used by the drug trafficking network for cocaine transportation, said a statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice on April 4, 2024.

The vessels, including sailing yachts and sport fishing boats, were utilized to transport the illicit substances while making stops at various Caribbean ports to provide a façade of legitimacy to each voyage.

One such vessel, the Casablanca, was intercepted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Marine Interdiction Unit in November 2018, resulting in the seizure of over 327 kilograms of cocaine as it entered U.S. waters near Key Biscayne, Florida.

The 55-year-old Rodriguez assisted in registering vessels under the names of straw purchasers, constructing secret compartments onboard to conceal the cocaine, and coordinating with crew members via satellite phone during voyages in the Caribbean to pick up the illicit cargo.

In November 2023, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine for importation into the United States.

The sentencing announcement was made by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, Acting Special Agent in Charge Darren B. McCormack of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York, and Administrator Anne Milgram of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The case was supported by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), with investigation conducted by HSI New York and DEA New York. Acting Assistant Deputy Chief Melanie L. Alsworth and Trial Attorneys Samantha Thompson and Janet Turnbull of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section prosecuted the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance, and the Dominican Republic authorities also contributed to the investigation.