Today the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and the Venezuelan federal investigative service are escorting back to the United States a U.S. citizen wanted on multiple narcotics-trafficking charges.
In Caracas, fugitive Julio Mendez, 37, boarded a commercial airliner in the custody of a Diplomatic Security special agent and two agents from Venezuela’s Cuerpo de Investigaciones Cientificas Penales y Criminalisticas (Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigations Corps), the Venezuelan equivalent of the FBI. The special agents will hand Mendez over to the custody of U.S. Marshals upon arrival in Miami.
In April 2007, Mendez was indicted by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on charges of conspiracy to import and possess cocaine, importation of cocaine, and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The indictment alleges that Mendez and another suspect conspired to import cocaine from the Bahamas to Miami-Dade County aboard a ship called the “Happy Lady” in 2003. The charges stem from a long-term investigation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Miami Field Office.
By late 2007, Mendez had fled the United States for Venezuela. At the time of his disappearance, he was considered armed and dangerous.
Venezuelan authorities arrested him on September 23, 2009 in the city of Valencia on charges of being in the country illegally. He had overstayed his 90-day entry permit by some two years.
A Venezuelan law enforcement officer assigned to Interpol’s Caracas office then notified Diplomatic Security’s Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas that Mendez was in Venezuelan custody and that he might also be wanted by U.S. authorities.
Diplomatic Security confirmed that he was a fugitive wanted for trial in the United States, and Venezuelan authorities ordered Mendez to be deported.
“Diplomatic Security’s regional security office in Caracas worked closely with the U.S. Marshals Service and our law enforcement counterparts in Venezuela who alerted us about Mendez, thus enabling his rapid return to the United States to face justice,” said Patrick D Donovan, Director of the Diplomatic Security Service, “This is an example of the unparalleled capability of Diplomatic Security to locate, pursue and return fugitives.”
Because the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service is the most widely represented law enforcement organization in the world, DSS's capability to track and capture fugitives who have fled U.S. jurisdiction to avoid prosecution is unmatched. During 2008, DSS DS participated in the investigation and return of 119 fugitives – 109 international and 10 domestic returns.
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security is the U.S. Department of State's law enforcement and security arm. The special agents, engineers, and security professionals of the Bureau are responsible for the security of 285 U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. In the United States, Diplomatic Security personnel protect the U.S. Secretary of State and high-ranking foreign dignitaries and officials visiting the United States, investigate passport and visa fraud, and conduct personnel security investigations. More information about the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security may be obtained at www.state.gov/m/ds.