Colombian Narco Trafficker Pleads Guilty
Tampa, FL – Jorge Eliecer Cifuentes-Cuero (54, Colombia, South America) has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine while aboard a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. He faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to court documents, Cifuentes-Cuero was a principal member of a Colombian and Ecuadorean-based drug trafficking organization. He initially worked as a mechanic and mariner onboard vessels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, and later, as he accumulated wealth, became an organizer of multi-ton cocaine loads transported by vessel from Colombia and Ecuador to locations in Central and Latin America. Cifuentes-Cuero is responsible for several maritime smuggling ventures in the international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. In January 2013 and July 2014, the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted loads of cocaine, totaling over 1,000 kilograms, that were being smuggled aboard vessels (commonly referred to as “go-fast boats”).
This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) comprised of agents and analysts from the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, 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. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Palermo and Special Assistant United States Attorney Rebecca L. Castaneda.