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Two Columbians Sentenced for Smuggling 1,535 Kilograms of Cocaine on Semi-Submersible Vessel

By CNSNews.com Staff | November 20, 2020 | 3:53pm EST
This is a semi-submersible vessel--but NOT the one involved in the smuggling operation discussed in the press release put out Thursday by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands. This semi-submersible was caugth in a cocaine-smuggling operation in 2008 in a joint operation conducted by Costa Ricans and the U.S. Coast Guard. (Photo by YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
This is a semi-submersible vessel--but NOT the one involved in the smuggling operation discussed in the press release put out Thursday by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands. This semi-submersible was caugth in a cocaine-smuggling operation in 2008 in a joint operation conducted by Costa Ricans and the U.S. Coast Guard. (Photo by YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Two Columbian nationals have been sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of “conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1,535 kilograms” of cocaine, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

“According to court records, on May 10, 2019, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton sighted a self-propelled, semi-submersible vessel in international waters approximately 250 nautical miles Northwest of Esmeraldas, Ecuador,” said a press release about the case put out by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of the Virgin Islands.

“The semi-submersible was navigating on a westerly course in a known drug smuggling area, and displayed no indicia of nationality nor markings, or navigation lights,” said the release.

“More than eighty (80%) percent of the vessel was under the waterline,” the release said. “As they approached the semi-submersible, U.S. Coast Guard crew members observed its occupants throwing objects overboard.”

Here is the full text of the press release published on Thursday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of the Virgin Islands:

“St. Thomas, USVI – Columbian natives Freddy Montano Paz, 30, and Mariano Abregon, 33, were both sentenced before District Judge Robert A. Molloy to 60 months of incarceration on their convictions on conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1,535 kilograms, United States Attorney Gretchen Shappert announced today. Judge Molloy also sentenced Montano Paz and Abregon to five years of supervised release, removal from the United States after serving their sentences, and $100 each for special assessments.

“According to court records, on May 10, 2019, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter HAMILTON sighted a self-propelled, semi-submersible vessel in international waters approximately 250 nautical miles Northwest of Esmeraldas, Ecuador.  The semi-submersible was navigating on a westerly course in a known drug smuggling area, and displayed no indicia of nationality nor markings, or navigation lights. More than eighty (80%) percent of the vessel was under the waterline.  As they approached the semi-submersible, U.S. Coast Guard crew members observed its occupants throwing objects overboard. Four individuals onboard the semi-submersible were later identified as Freddy Montano Paz, Mariano Abregon, Calixto Tumbaco, and Hector Hernandez Saucedo.  After recovering the jettisoned packages, U.S. Coast Guard crew members conducted an inspection of the vessel and recovered 40 bales which contained 1,535 kilograms of cocaine. Both Montano Paz and Abregon pleaded guilty to the conspiracy.

“This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and DEA, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Delia L. Smith.”

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