Miami-Dade County

A change of heart for one weapons smuggler and deportation for another

Customs and Border Protection officials examine seized guns.
Customs and Border Protection officials examine seized guns. Miami Herald File

One of five Venezuelans accused of smuggling weapons and ammunition to their homeland from South Florida has pleaded guilty after pleading not guilty just last month following his arrest in Orlando.

Luis Antonio Urdaneta Pozo is scheduled to be sentenced in June.

Also, one of three Venezuelans who recently pleaded guilty to attempting to export firearms and ammunition to the South American country in a related case was sentenced last week to 30 months in prison, but U.S. District Judge Robert Scola signed an order instructing that Alfredo Montilla Hernández be deported to Venezuela as soon as possible.

“It is hereby ordered,” according to Scola’s order, “that the defendant is ordered removed from the United States to Venezuela promptly upon his sentencing.”

Scola’s order was unusual. Typically, a judge orders a foreign defendant who has been sentenced to prison to surrender to immigration for deportation after completion of the prison term.

Montilla Hernández’s attorney, Ricardo Hermida, said he had not seen an order like Scola’s before.

Urdaneta Pozo was indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami on Feb. 16 and arrested in Orlando seven days later.

The original case came to light in April 2016 when customs agents at Miami International Airport opened a shipment from Maracaibo that contained empty boxes for vehicle batteries.

Homeland Security Investigations agents followed the package and linked it to two Venezuelans, including Montilla Hernández.

A third Venezuelan emerged in the case a month after the Maracaibo package arrived, sent by a person identified in court documents only as Ender Soto.

Passport control officials at the airport found Ender Soto’s name in the Venezuelan’s cellphone.

On Feb. 16, a Miami grand jury indicted the five Venezuelans including Urdaneta Pozo.

In addition to Urdaneta Pozo, two other defendants are Ender Enrique Soto Hernández and his brother Ender Alberto Soto Hernández. One of them, according to people familiar with the case, was the one who sent the package from Maracaibo with the empty boxes for vehicle of batteries.

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