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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Federal Jury Convicts Two Colombian Nationals And One Belizean National For International Cocaine Smuggling Conspiracy

Tampa, FL – A federal jury has found Rudolph Randolph Meighan (28, Belize), Jorge Ramon Newball-May (48, Colombia), and Calbot Reid-Dilbert (59, Colombia) each 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, as well as one count of possession with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on that vessel. Each faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. Their sentencing hearings are scheduled for August 7, 2019. A fourth defendant, Emiro Hinestroza-Newbbooll, is awaiting trial.

According to evidence presented at trial, the defendants were part of an international maritime drug smuggling operation involving at least 600 kilograms of cocaine, worth approximately $18 million, that was bound for the United States. Randolph Meighan was the Belizean load guard for a Cartagena, Colombia-based cocaine smuggling crew, which included Newball-May and Reid-Dilbert as crewmembers. Prior to their interdiction by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), the individuals were transporting approximately 30-to-40 bales of cocaine onboard a go-fast vessel from Colombia to Belize, following a known cocaine smuggling route known as the “Honduras Rise.”

On December 1, 2018, a USCG HC-130 aircraft deployed from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina spotted and recorded the defendants onboard a go-fast vessel traveling north at a high rate of speed, approximately 110 nautical miles southwest of Jamaica. In an attempt to destroy evidence and evade capture, the defendants 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 most of the jettison.

Later that day, the men 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 the defendants.

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, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 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 Attorney Nicholas DeRenzo and Assistant United States Attorney Dan Baeza.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated May 14, 2019