Jury Finds Remaining Co-Defendants Guilty Of Multi-State Drug Trafficking Conspiracy And Other Related Charges
Tampa, FL – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Nestor Hugo Gomez-Garcia (38, Colombia), a/k/a “Simon,” “Guava,” and “Guavita,” has pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute cocaine on vessels subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. He faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years, up to life, in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, Gomez-Garcia was the leader of a transnational criminal organization that dispatched self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessels from Colombia into the Pacific Ocean destined for Sinaloa Cartel members in Oaxaca, Mexico. Members of his organization served various roles and responsibilities, such as overseeing security at the SPSS construction sites, building the fiberglass hulls for these vessels, recruiting crewmembers, and organizing the logistics of the smuggling trips. Gomez-Garcia contracted the construction of the SPSS vessels, paid the workers directly or through intermediaries, and invested in the cocaine shipments.
In July and August 2015, and March 2016, the United States interdicted three SPSS vessels in international waters that had departed from Colombia while en route to Mexico. The first SPSS carried approximately 6,900 kilograms of cocaine, the August 2015 SPSS carried approximately 6,845 kilograms of cocaine, and the March 2016 SPSS contained approximately 5,824 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 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. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs substantially assisted in the extradition of the defendants 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.