The Public Ministry Participated in the Technical Team That Convicted the Owner of a Company of Aircraft Used for Drug Trafficking

by Pamela Contreras

The Public Ministry, through the Prosecutor’s Office for Drug Trafficking Crimes, participated in the trial of Debra Lynn Mercer-Erwin in the Eastern District Court of the State of Texas, United States of America, from April 13 to 26 of this year.

Four prosecutors from this prosecution office were among the witnesses and experts at the trial related to a strategic and regional investigation carried out in several countries, including Guatemala, the United States, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador,  and others.

The investigation coordination started in 2019, within the phenomenon of international drug transit through air transport.

The Drug Trafficking Prosecutor’s Office of the Public Ministry of Guatemala collected and shared information to sustain the case, listing events that involved aircraft transporting large drug shipments from South American countries.

According to the investigation, the organization encloses 24 aircraft registered under trusts with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which have links to drug trafficking and have landed illegally on Guatemalan territory.

Based on the information shared and the actions of Guatemalan security forces, about 6,654 packages of cocaine, with an estimated value of USD 89,829,000.00, were seized under different procedures.

The federal jury convicted Debra Lynn Mercer-Erwin of money laundering and wire fraud charges based on input from the prosecution. They found that she committed the offenses through a Ponzi scheme, in which investors claim to have lost at least $240 million.

A trust company operated to provide U.S.-registered aircraft for the use of criminal organizations dedicated to drug trafficking, known as cartels.

More than 1,000 aircraft registered to two post office boxes in a small city in Onalaska, Texas, which does not have an airport, were found through the company owned by Mercer-Erwin.

This conviction for drug trafficking and related offenses sends a clear message to operators of aircraft-related companies that authorities will duly investigate foreign owners seeking to register aircraft for criminal purposes.

These historic results mark a milestone in international cooperation focused on fighting drug trafficking. These actions help to comply with the Strategic Plan of the Public Ministry and the objectives and purposes of the Inter-Institutional Center Against Drug Trafficking in Guatemala -CICNAG-.

The Public Ministry reaffirms its commitment to the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime and to work with international authorities to obtain effective results, as described above.

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