Drug Enforcement Administration

New York

Raymond P. Donovan, Special Agent in Charge

August 07, 2017

Contact: Erin Mulvey

Phone Number: (212) 337-2906

5 Charged For Possession Of Over 2 Tons Of Cocaine In Maritime Enforcement Operation

NEW YORK - James J. Hunt, Special Agent-in-Charge of the DEA’s New York Division; Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Angel M. Melendez, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; George Beach, the Superintendent of the New York State (NYSP); and James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police (NYPD announced charges against five defendants for allegedly possessing and conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute over 2,000 kilograms of cocaine, in violation of the maritime drug enforcement laws of the United States. Ivan Cortes Molinero, Francisco Javier Ochoa Joaquin, Miguel Chavez Delgado, Enedino Gatan Vargas, and Fernando Moreno Hernandez were transported to and arrived in the Southern District of New York on August 4, 2017, and are expected to be presented later today, before Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis in Manhattan federal court.

DEA Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt said “From digging border tunnels to using go-fast boats, drug cartels will stop at nothing to get their illicit product into America. This seizure was a significant profit loss to the traffickers with a sobering effect to drug users in the U.S. I would like to thank our law enforcement partners in the U.S, Mexico, and Colombia for their diligent work and collaboration on this investigation.”

Manhattan Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said “These five defendants allegedly made a brazen attempt to ship nearly 5,000 pounds of cocaine to the U.S., packing the drugs in a speedboat and then trying to outrun authorities in the waters off of Mexico. I want to thank our law enforcement partners, who stopped this massive shipment of narcotics from arriving at our shores.”

HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Angel Melendez said “This team of perpetrators allegedly attempted to bring more than two tons of cocaine though U.S. borders. It is the collaborative effort with the DEA and other federal and local agencies that law enforcement was able to interdict this action and keep deadly drugs off American streets.”

NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said “As alleged, this criminal enterprise attempted to import a significant amount of cocaine to the United States by boat but law enforcement intercepted this shipment, five individual were taken into custody, and were subsequently charged. This investigation demonstrates the commitment of the NYPD to work alongside our federal partners to stop illegal drugs from entering our communities and hold responsible those who work to profit from illegal narcotics.”

State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said “We simply will not tolerate this type of alleged illegal drug trafficking activity in New York State. The valuable partnerships developed through the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force were instrumental in these arrests and the seizure of these lethal narcotics. I want to thank our federal, state and local partners for their ongoing hard work and collaboration on this case, which has resulted in the arrests and removal of five alleged dangerous criminals who profit at the expense of our communities.”

As alleged in the criminal Complaint filed earlier this week in Manhattan federal court:

The DEA has been investigating a Colombian drug cartel that sends shipments of cocaine to various points around the world by, among other methods, panga boats or “go-fasts.” Go-fasts are small boats, typically similar in size to speed boats, with hulls of approximately 20 to 50 feet and a maximum capacity of approximately five passengers. 
On or about July 8, 2017, a United States Navy Aircraft was on routine patrol off the western coast of Mexico and approximately 590 nautical miles south of Mexico. While there, an occupant of the aircraft observed what appeared to be a go-fast boat. The aircraft communicated this information to the command of the United States Coast Guard, which dispatched a Coast Guard cutter to intercept and board the go-fast boat.

The cutter approached the go-fast and launched a helicopter and a patrol boat, which proceeded to intercept the go-fast boat.  The patrol boat boarding team boarded and gained control of the go-fast boat, where they found Cortes Molinero, Ochoa Joaquin, Chavez Delgado, Gatan Vargas, and Moreno Hernandez. 

The boarding team observed numerous bales or large bundles wrapped in black plastic and brown tape on the deck of the go-fast boat. The bales were in plain sight and occupied a substantial portion of the deck of the go-fast.

The boarding team recovered approximately 107 bales and one loose brick from the go-fast boat. Two samples from the bales were field-tested, and tested positive for the presence of cocaine. In total, the contents of the 107 bales and brick weighed approximately 2,141 kilograms or approximately 4,720 pounds.

Cortes Molinero, 30, Ochoa Joaquin, 40, Chavez Delgado, 46, Gatan Vargas, 51, and Moreno Hernandez, 31, are citizens of Mexico. Each defendant is charged with one count of conspiring to violate maritime drug enforcement laws and one count of violating maritime drug enforcement laws by possessing with the intent to distribute cocaine. Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment. The statutory maximum penalties and mandatory minimum penalties in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Acting United States Attorney Kim praised the outstanding efforts of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force.  Mr. Kim also praised the outstanding efforts and assistance provided by the Coast Guard, United States Customs and Border Protection, the United States Navy, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, comprises agents and officers of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security (HSI), the New York State Police, the U. S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and (ATF), U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, New York National Guard, the Clarkstown Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Port Washington Police Department and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. The Strike Force is partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking (HIDTA), which is a federally funded crime fighting initiative and part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program.

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Kim is in charge of the prosecution. 

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

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