Gun Trafficker Who Tried To Send Firearms To Drug Cartel Members In Mexico Sentenced To Over Thirteen Years In Prison

Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge William F. Jung has sentenced Yuendry Rodriguez Hilario (29, Cleveland, OH) to 13 years and 4 months in federal prison for conspiring to traffic firearms, possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, and money laundering. A co-conspirator, Saleh Yusuf Saleh (24, Cleveland, OH), was sentenced on November 30, 2023, before U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle to 5 years and 8 months’ imprisonment. Rodriguez Hilario and Saleh were arrested in Cleveland, Ohio on March 2, 2023, and Rodriguez Hilario was ordered detained. Rodriguez Hilario entered a guilty plea on November 13, 2023.

According to court records, since 2021, undercover agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), posing as Mexican cartel members, were introduced to Rodriguez Hilario because he was a trafficker of firearms that could be smuggled to Mexico. During the investigation, Rodriguez Hilario and others discussed the purchase of AR-15s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. One of the co-conspirators described that he sold AR-15s and AK-47s to El Salvadorans, and also had cocaine available for distribution. Rodriguez Hilario further offered fentanyl to one of the undercover agents to make pills.

Beginning in late-2021, members of the conspiracy sold or arranged the sale of at least 90 rifles and one Mac-10-type machine gun with a silencer to undercover agents in the Middle District of Florida and Cleveland. In November 2022, an undercover agent told Rodriguez Hilario that his associates in Mexico were “battling and losing” and needed to purchase more firearms. On March 2, 2023, Rodriguez Hilario arranged to deliver 40 AM-15 multi-caliber firearms to the undercover agents. Saleh, who acquired and assembled the parts to make the firearms, arrived at the meeting with Rodriguez Hilario and the agents. After an undercover agent inspected one of the boxes of firearms, both Rodriguez Hilario and Saleh were arrested.

“Disrupting firearms trafficking schemes like this is a priority for us,” said ATF Tampa Field Division Special Agent in Charge Kirk Howard. “It took a joint team more than two years to investigate this complex case and bring these suspects to justice.”

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Tampa and Columbus, Ohio and is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations.

The specific mission of the OCDETF Panama Express Strike Force is to disrupt and dismantle Transnational Criminal Organizations involved in large scale drug trafficking, money laundering, and related activities. The OCDETF Panama Express Strike Force is comprised of agents and officers from the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security Investigations. The Cleveland Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Adult Parole Authority, and the Great Lakes Air and Marine Branch of U.S. Customs and Border Protection also provided assistance. It was prosecuted by Dan Baeza.

Fernandina Beach Man Sentenced To Prison For Threatening To Kill A United States Supreme Court JusticeU

nited States District Judge Marcia Morales Howard has sentenced Neal Brij Sidhwaney (43, Fernandina Beach) to 14 months in federal prison for transmitting an interstate threat to kill. Sidhwaney entered a guilty plea on December 15, 2023.

According to court documents, on July 31, 2023, Sidhwaney placed a telephone call from Florida to the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C., and left an expletive-laden, threatening voicemail message. On the voicemail message Sidhwaney identified himself by name and repeatedly threatened to kill a specific United States Supreme Court Justice.    

This case was investigated by the Supreme Court of the United States Police – Protective Intelligence Unit with assistance from the United States Capitol Police –Threat Assessment Section. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kirwinn Mike and Special Assistant United States Attorney Joe Wheeler, III.

FDLE arrests five organized retail theft schemers

Group targeted major home improvement retailer in fraud scheme

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) arrested Maike Acosta De Armas, 47, Lazaro Santiago Acosta De Armas, 45, Yusser Echemendia Rodriguez, 42, Elias Ramos Hernandez, 48, and Honasi Diaz Santos, 47, all of Miami-Dade County, for their involvement in a large-scale organized retail theft fraud scheme.

Each person in the theft ring faces multiple felony charges including organized scheme to defraud of $50,000 or more and retail theft of multiple items within thirty days at different physical locations.

The investigation began in July 2022 when FDLE Miami agents reviewed a criminal complaint provided by the company’s organized retail crime investigator. The complaint alleged that the fraudster’s operation spanned multiple Florida counties, resulting in thousands of dollars in losses.

Working with local law enforcement partners, FDLE identified 53 theft incidents in 13 Florida counties, including Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Sarasota, St. Lucie, and Volusia.

The investigation revealed that the organized theft ring engaged in a systematic scheme to defraud totaling more than $55,000 in losses to the company. The scheme involved abusing the online purse system and stealing items that the suspects claimed to have already purchased online. The suspects also “returned” stolen merchandise to stores in different locations using receipts from online.

The FDLE Miami Organized Crime Squad led the investigation and was assisted by the Miami-Dade Police Department’s (MDPD) Retail Crimes Squad.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “This criminal group committed more than 53 thefts in 13 Florida counties, stealing thousands worth of merchandise in a fraudulent systematic scheme. In Florida, we go after organized retail thieves, and now this nefarious group, thanks to the work of our law enforcement partners, will be held accountable for their crimes.”

“The South Florida community can rest easy knowing the policies implemented by Governor DeSantis earlier this year for stricter punishment for organized retail theft cases will make sure this group of scheming criminals will face the consequences of their actions,” says FDLE Miami Special Agent in Charge Felipe Williams. “This group hit a large business across the state resulting in profit losses for its stores directly affecting Florida’s consumer population.  The State of Florida and FDLE will not take those crimes lightly.”

Lazaro Santiago Acosta De Armas was arrested by Miami-Dade Police earlier this year on unrelated charges and is booked in the Metro West Detention Center without bond.

Echemendia Rodriguez was arrested by the Broward Sheriff’s Office on March 25, and booked into the Broward County Jail without bond.

Maike Acosta De Armas and Ramos Hernandez were arrested on March 27 and booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Detention Center without bond.

Diaz Santos is in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections.

The case will be prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

Matthew Shay