Broward County

11 suspected of drug smuggling, money laundering

Eleven suspected drug traffickers were arrested in Palm Beach County on Tuesday as part of a federal investigation into drug smuggling and money laundering across the U.S.-Mexico border, according to court records.

The 19-month investigation led U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents to raid a suburban Lake Worth home Tuesday, confiscating cell phones, drug ledgers and phone numbers, according to a federal complaint.

Arrested in the sweep were Federico Aguirre-Orozco, 34; Joshua Grauer, 29; Pierreland Fortune, 29; Julio Benitez, 22; Tara Boyd, 32; Guadalupe Velasquez, 34; Walter Tucker, 25; Vernon Tanksley, 30; Joseph Dorsey, 26; and Latif Loyuis Darden, 37.

All live in the Boynton Beach, West Palm Beach and Lake Worth areas and all were charged with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine.

Benitez is also charged with conspiracy to import at least 500 grams of cocaine. Grauer and Fortune face additional charges of drug possession with intent to distribute.

In April 2009, West Palm Beach police and DEA agents started investigating Turner, a suspected drug dealer in the West Palm Beach area.

Their surveillance led them to large-scale cocaine and marijuana distributors in suburban Boynton Beach, Lantana, Lake Worth, West Palm Beach and in Mexico, according to a federal complaint.

The dealers met at fast-food restaurants, in homes and parking lots around the county to talk about shipments of cocaine coming from a supplier in Mexico. One defendant planned to return to Mexico to smuggle a load of drugs into the United States.

Their arrests are part of an ongoing federal investigation, according to the DEA.

The 11 were booked Tuesday into the Palm Beach County Jail and appeared Wednesday at a hearing in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach. They were ordered held without bond.

Alexia Campbell can be reached at apcampbell@SunSentinel.com or 561-243-6609.

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