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Press Release

Ecuadorian National Sentenced To Over 16 Years For Trafficking Cocaine On The High Seas

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Charlene E. Honeywell has sentenced Jose Luis Pinargote-Baquerizo (37, Ecuador) to 16 years and 4 months in federal prison for conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute over 2,700 kilograms of cocaine. Pinargote had pleaded guilty on August 23, 2022.

According to court documents and information offered in open court, between June and September 2017, Pinargote conspired to traffic over 2,700 kilograms of cocaine by three different vessels through the Eastern Pacific Ocean (photographs directly below). These cocaine-laden vessels left the shores of Tumaco, Colombia, with a destination of Mexico. On these three drug trafficking ventures, Pinargote hired six Ecuadorian mariners who set sail from Colombia to Mexico, paying them in U.S. dollars for their participation. Pinargote often kept a portion of this payment as a fee. He also provided logistical support for transporting the mariners from Ecuador to Colombia, arranging and paying for their transportation and hotels. Pinargote personally shepherded these mariners from Ecuador to Colombia, and on one occasion accompanied them directly into Tumaco, Colombia.

Exhibit Photo

 

Exhibit Photo

On August 8, 2019, in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Pinargote was found on board a cocaine-laden vessel (1,029 kilograms) by the Colombian Navy (photograph directly below). Pursuant to an outstanding provisional arrest warrant, Pinargote was sent to a Colombian jail to await extradition to the United States.

Exhibit Photo

On August 24, 2020, while awaiting extradition to the United States, Pinargote was inadvertently released from a Colombian jail. However, on February 6, 2022, he was interdicted in the Eastern Pacific Ocean on board a self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessel by the Colombian Navy, this time with 3,764 kilograms of cocaine on board (photograph directly below).

Exhibit Photo

Pinargote was again arrested pursuant to the outstanding provisional arrest warrant, sent back to jail in Colombia, and extradited to the United States on March 2, 2022. In total, Pinargote is responsible for trafficking over 7,500 kilograms (or 17,000 pounds) of cocaine, which is worth approximately $225,000,000 USD.

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 (HSI), the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South. Substantial assistance was also provided by the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs. The Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section’s Judicial Attaché’s Office in Colombia also assisted in facilitating the extradition. 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 Assistant United States Attorney David Pardo.

Updated December 5, 2022

Topics
Drug Trafficking