CBP - U.S. Customs and Border Protection

04/26/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/26/2021 13:55

AMO Assists on Interdiction of Semi-Submersible Vessel with 5,515 Pounds of Cocaine Navigating to Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico- A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) aircraft assisted the US Coast Guard to seize approximately 2,500 kilograms of cocaine from a semi-submersible vessel. The shipment of cocaine has a wholesale value of approximately $75 million -- using a wholesale price of $30,000 per kilogram of cocaine.

On April 14, 2021, a Federal Grand Jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a four-count indictment charging three individuals with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance aboard a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, as well as violations of the Drug Trafficking Vessel Interdiction Act (DTVIA).

The indictment charges that, on or about April 8, 2021, on the high seas, defendants Arturo González-Quiñones, Freiman Yepes-Ospina, and José Álvaro Córdoba-Rentería, conspired to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, conspired to operate and embark in a semi-submersible vessel without nationality, and to navigate thereon into and through waters beyond the outer limit of any country's territorial sea, with the intent to evade detection, in violation of the DTVIA.

The interdiction was the result of multi-agency efforts in support of U.S. Southern Command's enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) programs, and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF).

The OCDETF CCSF is a multi-agency task force operating in the District of Puerto Rico focusing on attacking command and control elements of Caribbean and South

American-based Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs). The CCSF targets the smuggling of shipments of narcotics into Puerto Rico, the transshipment of drugs to the Continental United States, as well as the laundering of drug proceeds using bulk cash smuggling and sophisticated money laundering activities.

If convicted the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years up to life in prison on the drug trafficking charges and a maximum sentence of fifteen years in prison for violations of the DTVIA (18 U.S.C. § 2285).

Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

AMO safeguards our Nation by anticipating and confronting security threats through our aviation and maritime law enforcement expertise, innovative capabilities, and partnerships at the border and beyond. With approximately 1,800 federal agents and mission support personnel, 240 aircraft, and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands, AMO conducts its mission in the air and maritime environments at and beyond the border, and within the nation's interior.