TAMPA—U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington today sentenced Jimmy Samir Mendoza-Valle (20, Honduras) to 15 months in federal prison for obstruction of justice and perjury charges. Mendoza-Valle pleaded guilty on November 30, 2012.
According to court documents, in June 2012, Mendoza-Valle was one of 14 defendants in a federal drug trafficking conspiracy case in the Middle District of Florida. A week prior to trial, Mendoza-Valle filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. The principal contention of his motion was that Mendoza-Valle was actually a minor and, accordingly, the United States should dismiss the indictment.
During the hearing on the motion before U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr., on June 4, 2012, Mendoza-Valle lied under oath and claimed that he had been born on December 10, 1994, and that he was 17 years old. During the hearing, his counsel also offered into evidence a copy of a Honduran birth certificate of Mendoza-Valle, purportedly filed in 1993, reflecting a birth date of December 10, 1994.
Subsequent evidence, including a legitimate birth certificate introduced by the United States on June 5, 2012, showed that Mendoza-Valle’s true date of birth was December 10, 1992, and that he was in fact 19 years old on June 4, 2012. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Moody ruled that the birth certificate offered by the government was Mendoza-Valle’s true birth certificate.
Mendoza-Valle has since admitted that he lied as to his true age and submitted a false birth certificate to the court during the hearing on June 4, 2012. By attempting to portray himself as a juvenile during that hearing, he admits to erroneously and falsely attempting to influence the hearing in an effort to get the charges against him dismissed.
This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force, an OCDETF funded operation targeting maritime smuggling. Participating agencies include the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), the Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATFS), and the United States Marshals Service. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Jackson and former Special Assistant United States Attorney Austin Shutt.
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