Three Individuals Indicted For Conspiracy To Possess And Import Cocaine Worth Over $15 Million
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On March 7, 2018, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a three-count indictment against three defendants charged with conspiracy to possess a controlled substance on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
The defendants Erix Manuel Rodríguez-López; Juan Carlos Castillo-Vasquez; and José Nicolas Auitian-Bohorquez conspired to possess with intent to distribute five (5) kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance, on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
This interdiction was the result of ongoing, multi-agency federal law enforcement efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF).
On March 1, 2018, the crew of a patrolling CBP maritime patrol aircraft from the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch (CAMB) detected a suspicious 30-foot go-fast vessel with visible packages on deck transiting without navigational lights, approximately 50 nautical miles south of Ponce, Puerto Rico. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter Horsley conducted the interdiction of the suspicious 30-foot long fast boat. Upon boarding the vessel, USCG found the defendants in possession of 30 bales containing approximately 900 kilograms of cocaine. The three individuals were detained by USCG and turned over to FBI agents from the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) for processing, along with the seized narcotics.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is in charge of the investigation along with agents from the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), with the collaboration of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO), CBP Air and Marine Operations (CBP AMO), CBP United States Border Patrol (CBP USBP), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and PR Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA).
The CCSF is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), which investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of DEA, HSI, FBI, US Coast Guard, US Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and PRPD’s Joint Forces for Rapid Action.
Special Assistant US Attorney Sean Gajewski is in charge of the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Díaz-Rex, Deputy Chief of the International Narcotics Unit. If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years, and up to life in prison. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.