Second-In-Command Of International Drug Trafficking Organization Found Guilty Of Conspiracy
Tampa, Florida - A federal jury found Laureano Angulo Riascos (54, Colombia, South America) guilty yesterday of three drug conspiracy charges. He was convicted of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and conspiring with others to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing and intending that such substance would be unlawfully imported into the United States. For each of these charges, Riascos faces a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years in federal prison, and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. He was also convicted of conspiring with others to operate and embark by any means in a semi-submersible vessel without nationality and with the intent to evade detection. This charge carries a maximum penalty of fifteen years in federal prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 9, 2012.
Riascos was indicted on December 2, 2010. He was extradited to the United States, from Colombia, on April 17, 2012.
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Riascos was second-in-command of the Morfi drug trafficking organization (the "Morfi DTO"). Starting in 2000, Riascos worked with others to smuggle hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to Panama, using speed boats or "go-fast" vessels. By 2002, Riascos and others began shipping thousands of kilograms of cocaine, at a time, from Colombia's Pacific coast to Mexico. The cocaine was ultimately destined for the United States.
The Morfi DTO pioneered the design and construction of self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessels, and used them to smuggle multi-ton loads of cocaine. The Morfi DTO built and dispatched these vessels from Mayorquin, on Colombia's Pacific coast, in an area controlled by the 30th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ("FARC"). The FARC has been designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. The Morfi DTO paid cocaine "taxes" to the FARC, in exchange for being permitted to conduct drug trafficking operations in FARC-controlled territory. Between 2004 and 2009, Riascos worked with others to dispatch more than fifteen SPSS vessels from Mayorquin, each carrying between 2,000 and 5,000 kilograms of cocaine. The total amount of cocaine trafficked by Riascos is valued at more than $1 billion.
The current suspected head of the Morfi DTO, Jose Samir Renteria-Cuero, a/k/a "Jose Morfi," is in custody in Colombia, pending extradition to the Middle District of Florida for prosecution. An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Panama Express South Strike Force, a standing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), comprising agents and analysts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher F. Murray.