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International Narcotics Trafficker Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to Conspiring to Distribute One Ton of Cocaine Using a U.S.-Registered Aircraft

SEP 30 (NEW YORK) – Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the New Jersey Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Rawson Edward Watson, a citizen of the United Kingdom, pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court to conspiring to distribute cocaine using aircraft registered in the United States. Watson arrived in the Southern District of New York on November 9, 2012, from the Dominican Republic, where he was apprehended on December 15, 2011. Watson pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Today’s guilty plea ensures that Rawson Edward Watson will be punished for his role in attempting to further the international drug trade using U.S. aircraft.”

According to the Indictment to which Watson pled guilty and other documents filed in Manhattan federal court:

In late 2011, Watson and others made arrangements for an aircraft registered in the United States to be flown from the Dominican Republic to Belgium. Watson was arrested on December 15, 2011 in the Dominican Republic after he boarded a U.S.-registered aircraft that was loaded with 1,000 kilograms of cocaine. The DEA has estimated that the quantity of cocaine on board the aircraft where Watson was arrested has a wholesale market value of at least $30,000,000.

Watson, 48, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on board an aircraft registered in the United States. Watson faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Sentencing before Judge Sullivan is scheduled for January 31, 2014, at 10:00 a.m.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the New Jersey Division of the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski; the Caribbean Division of the DEA; and the DEA Dominican Republic Country Office. Mr. Bharara also thanked the Government of the Dominican Republic for its assistance, and the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anna M. Skotko, Shane T. Stansbury, Michael D. Lockard, and Randall W. Jackson are in charge of the prosecution.


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