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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Middle District of Florida
Roger B. Handberg, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Federal Jury Finds Tampa Man and Woman Guilty of Possessing Cocaine, Fentanyl and Machine Gun During Drug Trafficking Crimes

TAMPA, Fla. — U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that a federal jury has found Elias Xavier Rosario Torres, 26, of Tampa, and Veronica Estefania Rodriguez Pinuela, 23, of Tampa, guilty of possession with the intent to distribute fentanyl and over 500 grams of cocaine and possession of a machine gun in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. In addition, Rosario Torres was also found guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute fentanyl and over 500 grams of cocaine and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Both defendants face a mandatory minimum penalty of 35 years, up to life, in federal prison. Rosario Torres and Rodriguez Pinuela were indicted by federal grand jury on Oct. 25, 2022.

According to evidence presented at trial, Rosario Torres and Rodriguez Pinuela were stopped on March 8, 2022, by Tampa Police Department officers after a traffic infraction. During the traffic stop, officers located two backpacks in the defendants’ possession containing nearly a kilogram of cocaine, 16 grams of fentanyl, a Glock 23 handgun, two loaded magazines, and additional ammunition. The Glock 23 was modified with a chip that converted the handgun into a machine gun. At the time of the offense, Rosario Torres was a convicted felon, having been convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law.

This case was investigated by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Tampa Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeff Chang, James C. Preston, and Samantha E. Beckman.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities and measuring the results.


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