Third Crew Member Sentenced in Multi-ton Maritime Cocaine Seizure
Tampa, Florida - United States Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces today that United States District Judge Steven D. Merryday sentenced Marcos Salazar Obregon (30, Colombia, South America) to 14 years in federal prison for his role as a crew member of a vessel that smuggled approximately 6,700 kilograms of cocaine in the Caribbean Sea. According to court documents, the vessel, a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel, or SPSS, was interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter (USCGC) MOHAWK on September 30, 2011, in international waters approximately 110 miles off of the coast of Honduras. The SPSS sank during the interdiction and USCGC MOHAWK officers detained the vessel’s four crew members, who were later transferred to Tampa for prosecution.
Shortly after the interdiction, a multi-agency effort began to recover the suspected drug cargo of the sunken SPSS. The recovery effort included the deployment of a Federal Bureau of Investigation Underwater Search and Evidence Response Team, which conducted dive operations at the site of the submerged vessel and the USCGC CYPRESS, which is homeported in Mobile, Alabama. These recovery operations yielded evidence including packages of cocaine totaling an estimated 6,700 kilograms from the SPSS.
SPSS crew members Jorge Alfredo Colomer Haylock and Gulforth Sual Romera Alegria were both sentenced last month to 14 years in federal prison. The final crew member, Manuel Cuero Caicedo, is scheduled to be sentenced on April 10, 2012.
This case was investigated by OCDETF's Panama Express Strike Force, comprised of agents and analysts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, and Joint Interagency Task Force South. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Austin Shutt.