June 24, 2014
Contact: Public Information Officer
JUN 24 (TAMPA, Fla.)– U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew today sentenced Jose Samir Renteria-Cuero (51, Cali, Colombia), a/k/a “Jose Morfi,” to 27 years in federal prison for conspiring with others to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine onboard a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Renteria-Cuero pleaded guilty on February 6, 2014.
According to court documents, Renteria-Cuero was involved in maritime cocaine smuggling operations from the 1980s until at least 2009. He started out as a mechanic, servicing go-fast vessels (GFVs) and participating in GFV smuggling operations. Eventually, he acquired and built GFVs and self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessels and recruited mariners to participate in maritime cocaine smuggling operations. Renteria-Cuero worked with others to transport and store cocaine in Colombia, construct and repair GFVs and SPSS vessels, and dispatch those stateless vessels from Colombia. Renteria-Cuero acted as a “general contractor,” accepting contracts to build SPSS vessels from cocaine owners in Colombia. Renteria-Cuero provided maritime cocaine transportation services aboard stateless vessels that were used to smuggle the drugs from Colombia to Mexico, via the Pacific Ocean, in international waters, knowing and intending that the cocaine would ultimately be imported unlawfully into the United States. Many of these ventures involved at least 1,000 kilograms of cocaine.
Renteria-Cuero was arrested in Cali, Colombia in March 2012, and subsequently extradited to the United States, first arriving at a place in the Middle District of Florida.
This case was investigated by the Panama Express South Strike Force, a standing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.
The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs assisted with extradition of the defendant from Colombia.