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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Seven Men Sentenced To Federal Prison For Smuggling Cocaine On Board The Coastal Freighter Zumaque Tracer

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell has sentenced seven Venezuelan nationals to federal prison for 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.

Name

Federal Prison Term

Astrubal Quijada Marin

9 years

Henry Jose Marquez

8 years

Rafael Antonio Querales Grafe

5 years, 10 months

Juan Carlos Diaz Morales

5 years, 10 months

Juan Carlos Acosta Hurtado

5 years, 10 months

Jose Rafael Colina

5 years, 10 months

Edwin Ramon Marcano Morales

5 years, 4 months

Five of the defendants had pleaded guilty between March and June 2020. Two of the defendants were convicted following bench trials on May 7, 2021.

According to court documents, the seven defendants were on board the Zumaque Tracer, a 256-foot Cameroon flagged coastal freighter, in the international waters of the Caribbean Sea, on a northwesterly course towards Grand Cayman.

The vessel exhibited multiple signs consistent with drug trafficking and inconsistent with the stated purpose of the voyage. The seven defendants were each aware that they were transporting cocaine intended for distribution. 

In July 2019, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Northland located the Zumaque Tracer and conducted a search of the vessel. The boarding team ultimately located and seized 143 bales containing approximately 4,225 kilograms of cocaine—worth approximately $105 million—concealed in the vessel’s aft wing ballast tanks.

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. 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 Assistant United States Attorney Diego F. Novaes and Special Assistant United States Attorney Nick Derenzo.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated August 17, 2021