Florida pilot involved in cocaine trafficking schemes is sentenced


Date: May 29, 2024

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that Rupert De Las Casas of Miami, Florida, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford to approximately 85 months of imprisonment, time already served, and three years of supervised release for his participation in two separate cocaine trafficking conspiracies.

According to court documents and statements made in court, De Las Casas conspired with others to transport approximately 1700 kilograms of cocaine from South America to the U.S. On Aug. 6, 2016, De Las Casas and Ronier Sanchez Alonso flew a private jet, which was registered in the U.S., from the Dominican Republic to Venezuela where the cocaine was to be loaded onto the jet. De Las Casas was the pilot and Sanchez was the co-pilot. From Venezuela, the jet was to fly to Honduras where the cocaine would be loaded onto trucks for transport through Mexico into the U.S. A fake flight plan filed with Dominican authorities reported that the plane was traveling to Brazil. The plane crash-landed just short of a landing strip in Venezuela. De Las Casas, Sanchez, and another co-conspirator evaded capture by Venezuelan authorities and the cocaine was diverted back to Colombia.

On Dec. 14, 2016, a grand jury in Bridgeport returned an indictment charging De Las Casas, Sanchez, and others with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on board an aircraft registered in the U.S. De Las Casas was arrested on April 15, 2017, and pleaded guilty to the charge on Oct. 23, 2019. He has been detained since his arrest.

After his arrest, De Las Casas was charged in the Central District of California for his participation in a separate cocaine trafficking conspiracy. His case was transferred to the District of Connecticut and, on Feb. 27, 2024, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine for the purpose of unlawful importation.

Sanchez, a citizen of Mexico, was arrested in Asuncion, Paraguay, on March 25, 2021. He was extradited to the U.S., pleaded guilty, and, on Dec. 20, 2023, was sentenced to 48 months of imprisonment.

Another co-conspirator, Arrinson De La Cruz, who had worked at an airport in the Dominican Republic and helped to coordinate the travel of the jet through the airport uninterrupted, was charged separately for his role in this scheme and other drug trafficking activity. De La Cruz, a citizen of the Dominican Republic who had resided in Wolcott, Connecticut, pleaded guilty and, on Nov. 20, 2019, was sentenced to 144 months of imprisonment.

This investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration New Haven Task Force, which includes members from the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS CI), DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, Connecticut State Police and the New Haven, Waterbury, East Haven, Branford, West Haven, Ansonia, Meriden, Naugatuck, and Shelton Police Departments. The DEA Country Office in Paraguay, Interpol and the Paraguayan National Police assisted the investigation.

U.S. Attorney Avery thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California for its assistance in this prosecution.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Kale through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations through a prosecutor-led and intelligence-driven approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, obtaining a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.