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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 15, 2022

Jury Finds Colombian National Guilty Of Smuggling More Than 970 Kilograms Of Cocaine In The Eastern Pacific Ocean

Tampa, FL – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that a federal jury has found Prisciliano Garces Angulo (Colombia, 58) guilty of possessing and conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Four charged co-conspirators had previously pleaded guilty to the same drug trafficking conspiracy offense.  Garces Angulo faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years, and up to life, in federal prison. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for June 28, 2022.  He had been indicted on January 13, 2021.

According to testimony presented at trial, in December 2020, a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) airplane detected a 25-foot open-hull motorboat in the Eastern Pacific Ocean about 200 miles from the nearest point of land. The motorboat was suspected of drug smuggling because it had numerous fuel containers on deck, displayed no indicia of nationality or registration, and was operating in a location where maritime drug smuggling by similar vessels is common. The USCG Cutter Harriet Lane launched a helicopter and small boat to investigate. After the motorboat failed to stop in response to numerous orders and warnings by the USCG, the helicopter was forced to employ disabling fire on the boat’s engine. A USCG boarding team found Garces Angulo and his four charged co-conspirators on board and determined the vessel to be without nationality, and therefore subject to United States jurisdiction. On board the vessel, the boarding team found and seized more than 970 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated worth of over $29 million.

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, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South.

This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. 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 Special Assistant United States Attorneys Tereza Ohley and Matthew Del Mastro.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated April 15, 2022