Crew Member In Multi-Ton Maritime Cocaine Seizure Sentenced
April 11 – (Tampa, FL) - Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division and Robert E. O’Neill, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida announces the sentencing of Manuel Cuero Caicedo (31, Colombia, South America), the fourth crew member of a vessel smuggling an estimated 6,700 kilograms of cocaine in the Caribbean Sea. On April 10, 2012, the Honorable Steven D. Merryday sentenced Caicedo to 14 years in federal prison. The other crew members Jorge Alfredo Colomer Hylock, Gulforth Sual Romera Alegria, and Marcos Salazar Obregon were previously sentenced to 14 years in federal prison.
On September 30, 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutter MOHAWH was used to interdict a manual self-propelled semi-submersible vessel in international waters, approximately 110 miles off the coast of Honduras. The vessel was suspected of transporting a large drug shipment. Pursuant to the interdiction, the vessel submerged and Coast Guard officers detained the four crew members, which included Caicedo, Colomer Hylock, Romera Alegria, and Salazar Obregon. All four crew members were later transported to Tampa for prosecution.
Shortly after the interdiction, a multi-agency OCDETF’s Panama Express Strike Force initiated the recovery of the suspected drug shipment inside the sunken vessel. This recovery effort included the deployment of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Underwater Search and Evidence Response Team, which conducted dive operations at the site of the submerged vessel from the USCG cutter CYPRESS. The recovery operation resulted in the discovery of packages containing approximately 6,700 kilograms of cocaine.
This case was investigated by OCDETF's Panama Express Strike Force, comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, and Joint Interagency Task Force South.