Three Individuals Plead Guilty After Jury Selection In Drug Trafficking Trial
SAN JUAN, P.R. –Today, after selecting a jury and hearing the Government’s opening statement, defendants Hector Piedrahita-Sinisterra, José Ciro Segura-Sánchez, and Juan Nolberto González-Ramírez, entered guilty pleas in a drug trafficking case before United States District Court Judge Pedro A. Delgado. These guilty pleas finalized an investigation and prosecution by the U.S. Coast Guard and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
A fourth defendant, Ángel De Jesús Castillo-Godoy had plead guilty to conspiracy to possess a controlled substance on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States on February 12, 2018 and his sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 1, 2018. The defendants now face a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in a drug destruction case prosecuted under Title 46 of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA). Defendants Hector Piedrahita-Sinisterra, Jose Ciro Segura-Sánchez and Juan Nolberto González-Ramírez entered a straight plea after the prosecution’s opening statement. All pled guilty to the four counts: conspiracy to possess a controlled substance on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, aiding and abetting in the possession of controlled substances, conspiracy to destroy property subject to forfeiture under the MDLEA, and aiding and abetting in the destruction of that property.
On September 12, 2016, a Maritime Patrol Aircraft on routine patrol detected a suspicious vessel approximately 200 nautical miles South of Guatemala. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter WAESCHE was diverted to intercept the vessel, and dispatched its Dolphin helicopter as well as two small boats to conduct the interdiction. Upon detection of the Coast Guard’s helicopter, the vessel attempted to flee and jettisoned a large fiberglass box over the side of the vessel. After stopping the vessel using warning shots, the helicopter’s crew witnessed the defendants cutting open small packages and dumping them into the water. They also witnessed the defendants hastily change their clothes.
The Coast Guard’s boarding team arrived shortly thereafter and witnessed the individuals dump gasoline all over the vessel, which is a technique sometimes used to attempt to cover up any trace amounts of drugs that may be found on the vessel. When Coast Guard personnel boarded the vessel they were unable to locate any narcotics or the packages jettisoned overboard; however, IONSCAN tests revealed that portions of the vessel, the subjects’ hands, and their belongings, had trace amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine. As a result, the defendants were transported to the District of Puerto Rico for prosecution.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David Henek and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney from the U.S. Coast Guard, Sean R. Gajewski.
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