Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Frei – nephews of the wife of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro – were convicted of trying to smuggle cocaine into the United States
NEW YORK – Two relatives of Venezuela’s First Lady Cilia Flores were sentenced on Thursday to 18 years in prison after being convicted of trying to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, 32, and Francisco Flores de Frei, 31, are nephews of the wife of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
US District Judge Paul Crotty pronounced sentence inside a packed courtroom in New York.
Federal prosecutors had urged the judge to send the men to prison for at least 30 years.
Campo Flores was raised by Cilia Flores, a lawyer and veteran political activist who plays a major role in her husband’s administration.
The cousins were arrested in Haiti in November 2015 and brought to New York by agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration on charges that they conspired to ship 800 kilos (1,762 pounds) of cocaine to the US via Honduras.
They were convicted in November 2016.
The Venezuelan government objected from the start about the manner of the men’s arrest and accused the DEA of kidnapping them.
Defense attorneys for Campo Flores and Flores de Frei contended at trial that the case was based on a sting operation engineered by DEA informants who were trafficking drugs even as they were being paid by the US government.
The prosecution presented photos of the Venezuelans with the informants as well as audio tapes, including one recording where the defendants told the informants that they had access to the presidential hangar at Caracas’ Simon Bolivar International Airport.