DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Southern District of Georgia

For Immediate Release

Monday, February 3, 2014
Edward J. Tarver
, United States Attorney
Contact: James D. Durham, First Assistant U.S. Attorney

Bluffton Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Conspiracy to Smuggle Firearms, Stolen Cars to Bolivia

SAVANNAH, GA: ROBERTO BARRERO, 46, a naturalized American citizen originally from Bolivia, was sentenced last week by Senior Judge B. Avant Edenfield to 15 years in prison for his role in a far-reaching conspiracy whose goals included smuggling firearms and stolen cars to Bolivia, smuggling contraband cigarettes to New York, trafficking cocaine, and laundering millions of dollars of drug proceeds.  The organization was investigated as part of Operation Pulaski, a long-term undercover operation that resulted in federal charges against 45 defendants and the seizure of 188 firearms, over 200 grams of heroin, over 3 kilograms of cocaine, and 9 stolen vehicles.

United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver stated, "Operation Pulaski was an innovative effort to fight organized criminal activity that impacts not just South Georgia, but the entire east coast and foreign countries, as well.  Smugglers, gun runners, drug traffickers, and other criminals should take this sentence as a warning signal that the Port of Savannah is not available to them as a gateway to commit their crimes within the United States of America.  If they attempt to use our ports in this way, they will be prosecuted and punished."

“Yesterday’s sentence is a direct result of ATF and our law enforcement partners working on the frontline of preventing violent crime by leveraging technology and utilizing our expertise, resulting in a safer community for the citizens of Savannah and the surrounding area”, said ATF Special Agent in Charge Christopher Shaefer.  “Removing firearms and the criminals who illegally use and traffic firearms from the street makes a positive impact and contributes to stabilizing those areas which are fraught with criminal activity.”

BARRERO was convicted of conspiracy to deal in firearms without a license, to transport stolen vehicles across state lines, to possess untaxed cigarettes, and to commit money laundering. He was also convicted of carrying a firearm during and in relation to drug trafficking.  At sentencing, Judge Edenfield noted that BARRERO was responsible for trafficking over 50 firearms, 9 stolen vehicles, 2,370 cartons of untaxed cigarettes, and 935.15 grams of cocaine.  He also conspired to launder between 2 and 18 million dollars in drug proceeds.  He obliterated the serial numbers from 19 of the firearms, to avoid their detection by law enforcement.  Finally, the Court noted that BARRERO traded 23 firearms for 2 stolen cars, attempted to convert some semiautomatic firearms to fully automatic machineguns, and recruited multiple individuals to participate in the conspiracy.  BARRERRO was also ordered to pay $130,571.32 in restitution and a $200 special assessment.  Once he is released from prison, he will serve five years of supervised release.  Mr. Tarver noted that there is no parole in the federal system.   

BARRERO and six of his codefendants were convicted after pleas of guilty to various counts of a 52-count Superseding Indictment returned by the Grand Jury of the Southern District of Georgia on July 10, 2013.  Two additional codefendants were charged in the indictment but have not yet been apprehended.     

The case was the result of a long-term undercover investigation conducted by the ATF, in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Revenue, Homeland Security Investigations, and United States Customs and Border Protection.

Assistant United States Attorney Cameron Heaps Ippolito prosecuted this case.  For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547 or



Atlanta Field Division