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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Friday, December 21, 2018

Colombian National Sentenced For Role In International Maritime Cocaine Trafficking Conspiracy

Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore has sentenced Carlos Arturo Cuerro Borja (51), a Colombian national, to 18 years in federal prison, for his role in an international maritime cocaine trafficking conspiracy. In August 2018, a federal jury found him guilty of  one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine while onboard a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and one count of possession with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on that vessel.

According to evidence presented at trial, Cuerro Borja was part of an international maritime drug smuggling operation involving approximately 240 kilograms of cocaine bound for the United States. Cuerro Borja was the load guard for an Ecuador-based cocaine smuggling crew. While in international waters, hundreds of miles off the coast of Mexico, Cuerro Borja and his crew offloaded eight bales of cocaine to a Sinaloa, Mexico-based smuggling go-fast vessel. They then joined the Mexican crew for the run to Sinaloa, after scuttling their vessel in the Pacific Ocean.

On October 10, 2017, a U.S. Navy maritime patrol aircraft spotted the go-fast vessel speeding towards Mexico. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter ASPEN and its crew launched two over-the-horizon boats to catch the go-fast smuggling vessel crewed by Cuerro Borja and his five co-conspirators. The ASPEN crew seized cartel cocaine smuggling equipment and approximately 102 kilograms of jettisoned cocaine.

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 U.S. 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 Nicholas DeRenzo.

Drug Trafficking
Updated December 21, 2018