Miami judge sentences drug trafficker with Venezuela connection to 19 years

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke has sentenced the lead defendant in a Venezuela drug-trafficking case to 19 years in prison.

Roberto Mendez Hurtado, 49, was sentenced Sept. 3 after pleading guilty in a case that also involved 12 other defendants.

The case made headlines in November when federal prosecutors filed papers in Miami federal court outlining the activities of an international drug-trafficking gang that smuggled hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Apure state in Venezuela to Central America and the Caribbean.

One of the major transactions in the case took place on Sept. 13, 2010, at Miami International Mall in Doral. On that day in a mall parking lot, one of the suspects in the case delivered $87,900 in a cardboard box to two undercover federal agents as partial payment for a future cocaine shipment.

Besides sentencing Mendez Hurtado to 19 years in prison, Judge Cooke also gave the defendant 5 years supervised release.

Though Cook’s sentence was stiff, it’s still than what prosecutors sought in the original indictment: life in prison.

The case involved cocaine shipments from an illegal airstrip in Apure state, on the Venezuelan border with Colombia.