Former Colombian Maritime Training Instructor and Co-Conspirator Plead Guilty to U.S. Drug Charges
WASHINGTON – A former Colombian maritime training instructor and a co-conspirator have pleaded guilty to conspiring to transport thousands of kilograms of cocaine from various ports along the coast of Colombia to waiting vessels that transported the cocaine to the United States and other countries, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
Wilson Jesus Torres-Torres, a Colombian maritime training instructor, and Baudilio Vivero-Cardenas each pleaded guilty on Dec. 30, 2010, before U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in the District of Columbia to one count of conspiracy to violate the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act.
Torres-Torres and Vivero-Cardenas were charged in a one-count indictment returned in the District of Colombia on Feb. 24, 2009. They were arrested in Colombia on Sept. 30, 2009. Vivero-Cardenas was extradited to the United States on Sept. 2, 2010, and Torres-Torres was extradited to the United States on Sept. 23, 2010.
According to court documents, from September 2005 to February 2009, Torres-Torres and Vivero-Cardenas were members of a Colombian drug trafficking organization based in Buenaventura, Colombia, that transported large quantities of cocaine for various other drug trafficking organizations. The defendants admitted that they used fishing vessels and "go-fast" boats to transport thousands of kilograms of cocaine from various ports along the coast of Colombia to waiting transport vessels on the high seas, which would transport the cocaine to the United States and other countries. According to court documents, the vessels involved in the conspiracy were equipped with high frequency radios, global positioning system devices, satellite phones, large amounts of fuel, and multiple outboard motors to facilitate the transport of cocaine over long distances on the high seas until the destination or off-loading rendezvous point was reached.
Torres-Torres faces a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $4 million fine for the charge of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute or possess five kilograms or more of controlled substances on vessels; however as part of the extradition request, the United States provided assurances to the government of Colombia that it would not seek a life term in prison. Vivero-Cardenas faces up to 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine for the charge of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute or possess 500 grams or more of controlled substances on vessels. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for March 25, 2011, at 11 a.m.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Charles D. Griffith Jr., Meredith A. Mills and Tritia L. Yuen of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Miami Field Division; Washington, D.C., Office; Cartagena, Colombia, Resident Office; and the Special Operations Division. Significant assistance was provided by the U.S. Coast Guard in interdicting and recovering more than 21,000 kilograms of cocaine.