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Press Release

Former Colombian Police Officer Sentenced To More Than 12 Years For Attempted Cocaine Smuggling

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

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew today sentenced Santiago Silva-Ortiz (28, Colombia) to 12 years and 7 months in federal prison for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

Silva-Ortiz had pleaded guilty on January 14, 2019.

According to testimony and court documents, Silva-Ortiz served as a member of the Colombian National Police for two years and became involved with narco-traffickers. On October 10, 2018, Silva-Ortiz served as the load guard on a go-fast vessel that was interdicted south of the Dominican Republic by the United States Coast Guard. Silva-Ortiz and his conspirators were attempting to smuggle more than 1,190 kilograms of cocaine.

In March 2019, the captain of the go-fast vessel, Eulices De Jesus Barliza-Lopez, was sentenced to 11 years and 3 months in federal prison for his role in the offense.

This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force (PANEX) - a federally approved Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) consisting of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Coast Guard, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Operation Panama Express currently targets South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for smuggling drugs to the United States and elsewhere for distribution. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas N. Palermo.

Updated April 16, 2019

Drug Trafficking