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Woman who trafficked drugs through Port Tampa Bay sentenced to 22 years in prison

From October 2018 to March 2019, a Georgia woman and two Mexican citizens trafficked seven shipments of drugs in cargo containers through Port Tampa Bay, federal officials said.
After trafficking seven cargo shipments of methamphetamine and heroin through the Port of Tampa in 2018 and 2019, a Georgia woman was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison.
After trafficking seven cargo shipments of methamphetamine and heroin through the Port of Tampa in 2018 and 2019, a Georgia woman was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison. [ Photo illustration by ASHLEY DYE and MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Feb. 22
Updated Feb. 22

After trafficking seven cargo shipments of methamphetamine and heroin through the Port of Tampa in 2018 and 2019, a Georgia woman was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison.

Yolanda Herrera, 43, pleaded guilty in June 2020 and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday on Monday, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.

Herrera helped organize the trafficking of drugs through the ship Leticia, which traveled from Altamira, Mexico, to Tampa, officials said. From October 2018 to March 2019, Herrera and two Mexican citizens completed seven shipments on the ship, according to court records.

Homeland Security agents found the drugs after investigating one of the shipments, which were made to look like stone blocks. Agents found abnormalities in the blocks and broke them open to find more than 110 pounds of methamphetamine and six pounds of heroin.

Herrera rented six trucks from Tampa and transported the drugs to a house in Atlanta. She admitted to law enforcement that she had been hired to coordinate and organize the transportation of drugs from Mexico to Tampa to Georgia, officials said. Agents who searched her home found the same stone blocks that had been on the ship.

The two men who helped her, Nestor Vazquez-Morales and Adan Martinez-Onofre, were sentenced in 2020. Vazquez-Morales was given a sentence of 15 years and eight months, and Martinez-Onofre was sentenced to five years and 10 months. A search of Vazquez-Morales’s home revealed more than $12,000 in cash, three firearms, four pounds of heroin and the same stone blocks, according to the release.

“Narcotics trafficking poses a deadly threat, bringing in dangerous and addictive drugs and related criminal activity to our communities,” Homeland Security Tampa acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Sibley said in a prepared statement. “Our special agents are deeply committed to working with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking efforts in our communities.”