Jury convicts three men of trafficking nearly $17 million of cocaine
SAN DIEGO – Yesterday afternoon a federal jury convicted three defendants on charges stemming from their efforts to traffic approximately 734 kilograms (1,614 pounds) of cocaine -- worth nearly $17 million -- on the high seas. The verdict was rendered after a 10-day trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California before the Honorable Janis L. Sammartino.
At trial, the United States proved that on May 24, 2017, a U.S. Maritime Patrol Aircraft spotted a suspicious vessel alongside multiple packages of suspected floating contraband in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, approximately 364 nautical miles south of Chiapas, Mexico. The patrol aircraft notified the nearby the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter WAESCHE, which launched two small boats to intercept the vessel. The Coast Guard found the defendants aboard a vessel approximately 50 yards away from 15 bales of cocaine. The Coast Guard detained the defendants, recovered the cocaine and transported them to the United States.
“We may not have a wall at sea, but we do have an elite group of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents working from South America, Central America and Mexico to protect the land, sea and air borders in San Diego and Imperial Counties,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. “Utilizing all tools available, DEA merges actionable intelligence with the capabilities of other agencies to unleash the Coast Guard’s fury to stop drugs from getting to the United States. One Team, One Goal – to keep Americans safe and free from the scourge of illegal drugs.”
“This verdict is a result of the dedication of our law enforcement partners at the Coast Guard and DEA as well as the excellent trial advocacy of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Francis DiGiacco, Victor Pablo White, and Nicole Bredariol,” said U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer, Jr. “Stopping dangerous drugs before they reach our shores is a key priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and we will continue to target these maritime smuggling routes to protect the citizens of our district.”
“These smugglers have been brought to justice thanks to the dedication of the cutter Waesche’s officers and crew,” said Rear Adm. Peter W. Gautier, Eleventh Coast Guard District Commander. “This seizure adds to the thousands of kilograms of deadly narcotics seized at sea every month through the efforts of the Coast Guard, our partner agencies and partner nations. Together we will continue our determined fight against narcotics trafficking and the criminal networks that threaten our country.”
The defendants will be sentenced on Nov. 15, 2019 before Judge Sammartino.
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