Court Sentences Two Drug Smugglers Caught by the United States Coast Guard in International Waters with 800 Kilograms of Cocaine
On March 3, 2020 United States District Court Judge William H. Steele sentenced two drug smugglers, Jeison Cambindo-Barahona and Marino Caido-Cardenas, both Columbian nationals, to one hundred and thirty five months confinement for being caught smuggling 800 kilograms of cocaine in international waters off the coast of Panama. The two men previously plead guilty to the charge in November 2019.
According to documents filed in connection with their guilty pleas, the case arose when on July 18, 2019, while on routine patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter Seneca deployed a helicopter which visually detected a target of interest go-fast vessel approximately 50 nautical miles south of the Azuero Peninsula in Panama. Subsequently, the Seneca launched a Zodiac style “Over the Horizon” vessel to assist in intercepting the go-fast vessel. Ultimately, the helicopter and the Over the Horizon vessel arrived on scene with the suspect go-fast vessel.
As the crew aboard the go-fast vessel observed law enforcement closing in on them, they attempted to outrun the USCG. USCG personnel observed the crewmembers aboard the go-fast vessel throwing bales of suspected contraband out of their boat into the water. Ultimately, the USCG used disabling fire on the vessel which caused the go-fast vessel to become dead in the water. This allowed the USCG boarding team on the Over the Horizon to gain positive control of the targeted go-fast vessel.
USCG Cutter Seneca recovered a total of 39 bales of contraband from the water and inside the vessel with an approximate weight of 800 kilograms. The cocaine had a wholesale value of nearly $32 million in the United States.
The suspect vessel yielded no flag flown, no vessel registration documents and no other indicia of nationality. Upon boarding the vessel the smugglers were identified as the defendants, Edward John Valencia-Riascos, Marino Caido-Cardenas, and Jeison Cambindo-Barahona. Valencia-Riascos is scheduled to be sentenced on March 25, 2020.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney George F. May. The case was investigated by the United States Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations.