Ecuadorian Man Sentenced To 14 Years In Federal Prison
Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich has sentenced Freddy Geovainni Mero Ancentales (36, Ecuador, South America) to 14 years in federal prison for conspiring with others to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. In January 2017, Judge Kovachevich sentenced co-defendants Juan Pablo Anchundia Calderon (38) and Joffre Lizandro Vilela Valencia (34), both of Ecuador, to 11 years and 3 months and 8 years and 1 month in federal prison, respectively, for committing the same offense.
Calderon and Vilela Valencia pleaded guilty on July 22, 2016. Mero Ancentales pleaded guilty on August 31, 2016.
According to court documents, in April 2016, Mero Ancentales, Vilela Valencia, and Anchundia Calderon were interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard in the eastern Pacific Ocean and were caught jettisoning 14 bales of cocaine, weighing approximately 698 kilograms.
This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force, a standing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) comprised of agents and analysts from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 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. 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 Frank Murray and former Special Assistant United States Attorney James R. Zoll.