Federal Court

Ex-Navy seal, wife busted for smuggling cocaine on Miami flight

 

achardy@elnuevoherald.com

U.S. Navy Seals are often called upon to stage covert operations in some of the world’s most dangerous places.

But the cocaine-smuggling operation that ex-Navy Seal Angel Martínez-Ramos tried to pull off at Miami International Airport failed because his wife refused to follow his instructions, according to court records.

Bibiana Marcela Lopez-Correa, a Colombian, left behind a bag containing 10 kilos of cocaine that she was supposed to carry with her as she exited the aircraft.

Both husband and wife are now behind bars after being indicted in January. They have since pleaded not guilty, changed their minds, and then pleaded guilty. Lopez-Correo has been sentenced to almost six years in prison. Her husband has not been sentenced yet.

Their defense attorneys could not be reached for comment.

BuzzFeed, a news and entertainment website, first reported on the case.

A Drug Enforcement Administration special agent detailed the investigation in a criminal complaint filed in Miami federal court on Dec. 26.

A week earlier, the complaint said, DEA agents at the Miami office received information from fellow agents in Bogotá, the Colombian capital, that a narcotics load was likely to be smuggled into the United States soon.

The tip was that the smuggler possessed a government passport and might be in the U.S. military.

DEA agents soon identified Martínez-Ramos as the suspected smuggler who would be arriving at MIA on an American Airlines flight on Christmas Eve 2013.

While Martínez-Ramos is a former SEAL, he remains a member of the naval reserves and as such he frequently traveled on official business to Latin America, the complaint said.

At 11:42 a.m. on Dec. 24, Martínez-Ramos arrived on a flight from Aruba and left the plane carrying a small black suitcase. He was detained for questioning after he claimed to be traveling alone, the complaint said. Later he refused to answer questions from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers without an attorney present.

Despite Martínez-Ramos’ denials, the complaint added, his wife – Lopéz-Correa – was also aboard the plane.

She left the plane by herself. When questioned, she also claimed to be traveling alone but en route to New York to meet her husband.

However, when investigators asked her if Martínez-Ramos was her husband she responded “yes.” She was arrested and, unlike her husband, agreed to answer investigators’ questions.

One of the first things she revealed was that, contrary to instructions from her husband, she had left behind in the plane’s overhead bin a black carry-on suitcase.

She also revealed that the suitcase she had deliberately left behind in the bin was her husband’s bag. She said that he was carrying her bag when he was stopped for questioning.

CBP officers searched Martinez-Ramos’ bag, the one left behind in the bin, and found 10 “brick-shaped objects, wrapped in yellow tape, located underneath a sweater and a pair of boots,” the criminal complaint said.

“It was discovered that each of the yellow objects contained approximately one kilogram each of a white powdery substance, which field tested positive for the presence of cocaine for a total of ten kilograms of cocaine,” the complaint said.

López-Correa told investigators that earlier in December, her husband had instructed her to meet him in Aruba and that from there they would travel together to the United States. She agreed to the arrangement because she wanted to divorce him and needed to file court papers in the United States.

On the eve of their departure for Miami, while López-Correa showered in their Aruba hotel room, Martínez-Ramos packed his bag and put some of her clothes in it.

The couple switched bags at the Aruba airport just before boarding the plane.

When they arrived at MIA, Martínez-Ramos instructed his wife to stay on the plane until he called her on her cell phone. He never did.

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