Montenegrin National Charged in Brooklyn Federal Court with Maritime Narcotrafficking of Over 20 Tons of Cocaine
Goran Gogic, a Former Heavyweight Boxer, Allegedly Used Commercial Container Ships to Transport Over $1 Billion Worth of Cocaine from Colombia to Europe via the United States
Seizure of Cocaine from the MSC Gayane at the Port of Philadelphia Was One of the Largest in U.S. History
An indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Goran Gogic with one count of conspiracy to violate the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act and three counts of violating the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. Gogic, a citizen of Montenegro, and a former heavyweight boxer, was arrested last night as he attempted to board an international flight from Miami International Airport. Gogic is expected to appear this afternoon in federal court in Miami and will be arraigned in the Eastern District of New York at a later date.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI); Frank A. Tarentino, III, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division (DEA); Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office (FBI); Keechant L. Sewell, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD); and Steven A. Nigrelli, First Deputy Superintendent, New York State Police (NYSP), announced the arrest and charges.
“The arrest and indictment of Gogic, a former boxer allegedly responsible for trafficking a staggering amount of cocaine, more than 20 tons, which he attempted to move through U.S. ports, is a resounding victory for law enforcement,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “The meticulous planning by the defendant and his co-conspirators failed to take into account the federal agents whose hard work resulted in this body blow to the organization and individuals responsible for distributing massive quantities of cocaine.”
Mr. Peace also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for its assistance in the investigation.
“Gogic, as alleged, is a major drug trafficker who, along with his criminal associates, is responsible for overseeing long-range narcotics transportation on container ships as well as the wholesale distribution of cocaine throughout Europe. Today’s arrest sends a message to narcotraffickers worldwide that they are not free to hijack international maritime commerce with impunity,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Arvelo. “HSI, along with our partners, will continue to leverage our unique investigative authorities to aggressively pursue drug traffickers who seek to exploit legitimate industries.”
“A billion dollars’ worth of cocaine seized was a heavy hit for Gogic’s criminal network, but nothing heavier than his arrest last night,” said DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Tarentino. “As evident in this case, criminal organizations will go to various extremes to make a profit off the sale of poison. Due to the hard work by local, state and federal law enforcement, 20 tons of poison was intercepted en route from Colombia to Europe. Gogic’s arrest underscores law enforcement’s commitment to bringing to justice those responsible for causing the most harm to our communities.”
“Gogic allegedly conspired with drug suppliers, ships' crewmembers, and port workers to traffic massive quantities of cocaine through the U.S. to Europe via commercial cargo ships," said Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office's Criminal/Cyber Division. "His arrest demonstrates the FBI’s and our partners’ global reach and resolve to bring narcotraffickers to justice for violating U.S. laws and exploiting maritime commerce.”
“When building a case against a sophisticated drug trafficker like Goran Gogic, operating on a mammoth scale, it is critical that federal, state, and local law enforcement work in close coordination, sharing resources and information,” stated NYPD Commissioner Sewell. “This arrest and massive seizure demonstrate the effectiveness of HSI New York’s El Dorado Task Force, of which the NYPD has long been a proud partner.”
New York State Police Acting Superintendent Nigrelli said, “This arrest and indictment speaks volumes of the tremendous coordination between law enforcement partners to stop individuals such as Mr. Gogic, from using our waterways to distribute illegal drugs throughout the world. May this arrest send a clear message that we will find and punish the people who are responsible for carrying out such acts. The New York State Police will continue to work with our partners to stop the flow of dangerous drugs in our country and the world.”
As alleged in the indictment and court documents, between May 2018 and July 2019, Gogic conspired with others to distribute massive quantities of cocaine via commercial cargo ships. Gogic coordinated with the sources of the cocaine in Colombia, the crewmembers who transported tons of cocaine on commercial cargo ships on the high seas, and the network of port workers who transported and offloaded the cocaine in Europe via the United States.
Members of the conspiracy loaded the commercial cargo ships at night near the coast and ports, working with crewmembers who would hoist loads of cocaine from speedboats that approached the ships at multiple points along their route. To physically load the cocaine aboard, they used the ship’s cranes as well as nets. Once the cocaine was onboard, the crewmembers would hide it within specific shipping containers that they knew had sufficient room to conceal the large quantities of cocaine and for which they had duplicate counterfeit seals. They selected the specific containers to be used to conceal the cocaine based, in part, on the containers’ location and orientation, and route and destination on board the vessel. This complex operation relied on having to access to each ship’s crew, route, manifest, real-time positioning and geolocation data and a knowledge of what legitimate cargo is contained in each container. The conspiracy used a different set of workers with access to the ports in Europe to clandestinely access and remove the cocaine from the shipping containers upon their arrival.
U.S. law enforcement officers seized three of these shipments:
- The February 27, 2019 seizure of approximately 1,437 kilograms of cocaine secreted aboard the MSC Carlotta at the Port of New York and New Jersey;
- The March 18, 2019 seizure of approximately 537 kilograms of cocaine secreted aboard the MSC Desiree at the Port of Philadelphia; and
- The June 19, 2019 seizure of approximately 17,956 kilograms of cocaine secreted aboard the MSC Gayane at the Port of Philadelphia. The seizure of the cocaine from the MSC Gayane—worth over $1 billion—was one of the largest seizures of cocaine in United States history.
Law enforcement officers also seized significant amounts of cocaine related to the scheme at ports in Panama, Peru, and the Netherlands, among other countries.
If convicted, the defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and up to life in prison.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
HSI New York leads and directs all operational and administrative activities of the El Dorado Task Force (EDTF). The EDTF is comprised of more than 200 law enforcement personnel representing approximately thirty-five (35) federal, state, and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies. The mission of the EDTF is to disrupt, dismantle, or render ineffective, organizations involved in the laundering of proceeds of narcotics trafficking and other financial crimes.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Nomi Berenson and Robert Pollack are in charge of the prosecution.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 22-493 (NM)