Ecuadorian And Colombian Nationals Found Guilty Of Smuggling Over 400 Kilograms Of Cocaine In The Eastern Pacific Ocean
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida
Tampa, FL – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that a federal jury has convicted Luis Elias Angulo Leones (Ecuador, 29), Jhonis Alexis Landazuri Arboleda (Colombia, 33), and Dilson Daniel Arboleda Quinones (Colombia, 25) of possessing and conspiring to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Each defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and up to life, in federal prison. Their sentencing hearings have been scheduled for June 15, 2022. All three individuals were indicted on March 19, 2020.
According to testimony presented at trial, a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) helicopter spotted a 35-foot open-hull motorboat in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, about 100 miles from the nearest point of land. The vessel was suspected of drug smuggling because it had multiple engines, multiple fuel containers on deck, was operating without navigational lights at dusk, and was operating in a location where maritime drug smuggling by similar vessels is common. The USCG Cutter Mohawk launched a small boat to investigate, found the three defendants on board, and determined the vessel to be without nationality, and therefore subject to U.S. jurisdiction. A search of the motorboat revealed 430 kilograms of cocaine, worth $12.9 million, hidden underneath the vessel’s deck.
This case was investigated by the United States Coast Guard and the Panama Express Strike Force, a standing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force comprised of agents and analysts from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Tereza Ohley and Assistant United States Attorney Lauren Stoia.
Updated March 18, 2022