Federal Jury Convicts Colombian National For International Cocaine Smuggling Conspiracy
Tampa, FL – A federal jury has found Emiro Hinestroza-Newbbooll (48, Colombia) 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. Hinestroza-Newbbooll faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. His sentencing is scheduled for April 30, 2020.
According to evidence presented at trial, Hinestroza-Newbbool was part of an international maritime drug smuggling operation involving at least 600 kilograms of cocaine worth approximately $18 million. Hinestroza-Newbbooll was the captain of a four-man, Colombia-based cocaine smuggling crew. Prior to their interdiction by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Hinestroza-Newbbooll and his crew were transporting approximately 30 to 40 bales of cocaine onboard a go-fast vessel from Colombia to Honduras following a known smuggling route known as the “Honduras Rise.”
On December 1, 2018, a USCG HC-130J aircraft deployed from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina spotted and recorded Hinestroza-Newbbooll and his crew onboard a go-fast vessel traveling at a high rate of speed, approximately 110 nautical miles southwest of Jamaica. In an attempt to destroy evidence and evade capture, Hinestroza-Newbbooll and his crew jettisoned all of the cocaine bales onboard the vessel and sank them to the ocean bottom, by tying the bales to their outboard engines and throwing the engines (their only means of propulsion) overboard. The USCG aircrew thwarted that attempt and was able to observe and record the jettison.
Later that day, Hinestroza-Newbbooll, his crew, and their now engine-less vessel were interdicted and boarded by USCG law enforcement officers from Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET) Pacific. That boarding yielded crucial evidence consistent with cocaine trafficking, including trace amounts of cocaine present on the smuggling vessel and Hinestroza-Newbbooll and his crew.
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, 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 Special Assistant United States Attorneys Nicholas DeRenzo and Toni Goodin.