Members of Drug Smuggling Organization Sentenced
Tampa, FL - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that earlier this week U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich sentenced Elias Estupinan Rengifo (48, Colombia, South America) to 135 months in federal prison for conspiring with others to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine on board vessels subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Rengifo pled guilty on October 12, 2011.
Rengifo had three co-conspirators - Horacio Aguirre Perea (42), Vicente Aguirre Perea (45), and Wilson Vallejo (41), all of Colombia, South America. All three were arrested in Colombia, extradited to the United States, subsequently pled guilty to the same drug conspiracy charge, and were previously sentenced.
Horacio Aguirre Perea was arrested in Colombia on August 5, 2009 and pled guilty on October 27, 2010. On January 28, 2011, he was sentenced to 235 months in federal prison.
Vicente Aguirre Perea was arrested in Colombia on August 6, 2009 and pled guilty on January 26, 2011. On April 13, 2011, he was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison.
Wilson Vallejo was arrested in Colombia on March 16, 2010 and pled guilty on March 29, 2011. He was sentenced on June 17, 2011 to 135 months in federal prison.
According to court documents, Rengifo and his co-conspirators were knowing and willing participants in an on-going maritime cocaine smuggling organization operating along Colombia's southern coast. Between 2005 and 2009, Rengifo and his co-conspirators organized multiple maritime cocaine smuggling trips, including: (1) the stateless go-fast vessels interdicted by the United States in the Pacific Ocean on February 19, 2005 and December 2, 2006; and (2) the stateless self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessels interdicted by the United States in the Pacific Ocean on March 1, 2008 and June 16, 2008. Coast Guard officers seized more than 1,000 kilograms of cocaine from both of the interdicted go-fast vessels. The SPSS vessels were also carrying cocaine, but were scuttled before Coast Guard officers could recover any cocaine. The mariners on the four interdicted vessels were first brought into the United States in the Middle District of Florida.
This case was investigated by OCDETF's Panama Express Strike Force South. The strike force includes agents and analysts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and Joint Interagency Task Force South. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher F. Murray.