Venezuelan first lady's 'Narco Nephews' jailed for drug trafficking

By Daniel Uria  |  Dec. 14, 2017 at 10:51 PM
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Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Two nephews of Venezuela's first lady were sentenced to 18 years in prison in the United States for drug trafficking.

Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas, 32, and Efraoin Antonio Campo Flores, 31, were accused of conspiring to smuggle 1,700 pounds of cocaine from South America to the United States via Honduras.

Prosecutors sought a sentence of 30 years for both men -- who were given the moniker of "Narco Nephews" by Venezuelan media -- but U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty said that would be "excessive," as neither had a criminal record and sentenced them to 18 years.

They had previously denied the charges saying the trafficking plot "could never actually have been executed," and requested a shorter sentence.

"I've always been a good person," Flores de Freitas said. "Even in jail I tried to help those who were in a worse psychological situation than I find myself in."

The two nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's wife, Cilia Flores, were arrested in 2015 by undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement agents in Haiti, where prosecutors said they were making arrangements to smuggle the cocaine.

While in Haiti they told the agents, posing as representatives of a Mexican cartel, they would ship 800 kilos of cocaine purchased from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrillas to Honduras, where the presumed cartel members would move it to the United States.

The brothers were then taken to New York where they were convicted on drug trafficking charges in 2016.

Maduro suggested he and his wife were the true targets of the sting at the time.

"Do you think it's a coincidence that the empire [the United States] created this case with the sole objective of attacking the first lady, the first combatant, the wife of the president," he said. "Do you think it's a coincidence?"

Attorneys for Josh Holt, a Utah man who has been in custody in Venezuela for more than 17 months on weapons charge, fear Venezuela might "take revenge" on their client after the sentencing.

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