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Press Release

Investor And Organizer Of Cocaine Smuggling Operations Via Semi-Submersible Vessels Pleads Guilty

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

Tampa, FL –United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Oscar Adriano Quintero Rengifo, a/k/a “Guatala,” (34) today pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine on vessels subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Quintero Rengifo faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. He was arrested in Colombia on January 29, 2021, and extradited to the United States on January 26, 2022.

According to the plea agreement, Quintero Rengifo was part of a transnational criminal organization that smuggled cocaine from South America to Central America for ultimate importation into the United States. The organization primarily sent vessels such as self-propelled semi-submersible vessels to Guatemala, where the cocaine was then smuggled over the Guatemala/Mexican border and then into the United States. A former mayor in Guatemala, who controlled drug routes in northern Guatemala into Mexico, oversaw the smuggling of cocaine to Mexican cartel members. Quintero Rengifo progressed within the group from organizing smuggling operations to ultimately investing in shipments and securing investors.

From at least as early as January 2015 through September 2019, the United States Coast Guard interdicted at least four vessels, including two semi-submersible vessels, directly linked to the Quintero Rengifo’s organization and involving more than 13,000 kilograms of cocaine.

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 Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs substantially assisted in the extradition of the defendant to the United States. 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 Dan Baeza.

Updated April 19, 2023

Drug Trafficking