Venezuelan first lady's nephews fight drug charges

Agents arrest members of Venezuelan President's family
Agents arrest members of Venezuelan President's family

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Story highlights

  • Nephews say their drug confessions were coerced by the DEA
  • They are accused of trying to smuggle 1,763 pounds of cocaine into the United States

(CNN)Two of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores' nephews who were indicted for trying to smuggle cocaine into the United States confessed, according to court documents filed Friday in federal court.

But Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas, 30, and Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, 29, say those confessions were coerced by Drug Enforcement Administration agents and should be thrown out, according to a motion to suppress filed July 1 by defense lawyers.
    The men were arrested in November 2015 in Haiti by the DEA. They attempted to smuggle over 800 kilograms (1,763 pounds) of cocaine into the United States, authorities said.
    In the motion to suppress, the men said they thought they were being kidnapped because arresting officers didn't identify themselves or wear uniforms.
    "The defendants were subjected to a harrowing ordeal before making the statements," the motion says. "The defendants, as relatives of prominent Venezuelan politicians and having known personally many people who had been kidnapped (and some killed), believed that they had been kidnapped and were afraid for their lives."
    The men didn't understand English or the U.S. judicial system and didn't realize the implications of signing Spanish-language Miranda waivers or conversing with DEA agents during a flight from Haiti to New York, the motion says.
    Franqui Flores and Campo told officers they were cousins and nephews of Cilia Flores, the motion says. Campo lived with Cilia Flores for a period as a child and sometimes refers to himself as her stepson, the motion says.
    In documents opposing the motion to suppress, Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said arresting officers in Haiti did wear uniforms with official patches and some wore chest plates that bore the word "police." The officers wore helmets and masks to protect their identifies, the government says.
    The men freely confessed, the document says.
    "During the flight from Haiti to the United States, the defendants confessed to participating in the charged cocaine-importation conspiracy, without coercion," the government says.
    In an interview with DEA agents, Franqui Flores said he was involved in the transaction "to make money," the documents said. He said he expected the load to generate about $5 million and he would make about $560,000, the document says.
    Campo said he had financial motivations because he was only making about $800 weekly from a Panama-based taxi company, the documents say.
    The defendants were trafficking cocaine given to them by the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a guerrilla group that is negotiating peace with the Colombian government after a five-decade conflict, according to the documents.
    The men are being held without bond.
    Cilia Flores has complained about the arrests, saying the United States kidnapped her nephews.