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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 5, 2022

Captain of Methamphetamine-Filled Boat that Rammed Coast Guard Vessel, Injuring Officers, Sentenced to 16 Years

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Bredariol (619) 546-8419 and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mokhtari (619) 546-8402

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – August 5, 2022

SAN DIEGO – Miguel Ojeda Agundez, captain of a drug-smuggling boat that rammed a Coast Guard vessel during a dangerous high-speed chase off the shores of San Diego, was sentenced in federal court today to 194 months in prison. 

Ojeda Agundez is the last of four defendants to be sentenced in connection with the event, which occurred in August 2020 off the shores of San Diego. All four defendants were charged in a 15-count federal indictment with trafficking close to 500 pounds of methamphetamine; failure to stop for the Coast Guard; and assault on five Coast Guard officers who were injured as a result of the ramming. Ojeda Agundez ultimately pleaded guilty to all 15 counts. 

At today’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino described the defendant’s conduct as “egregious” and causing “immeasurable harm to the community.” She noted that members of the Coast Guard are working hard every day “to protect the community that they are sworn to serve…we have tremendous respect and admiration and gratitude to those who serve this country.”

The other defendants - Arturo Velasquez Soto, Luis Parada Reyes, and Juan Diaz Hernandez - were previously sentenced by Judge Sammartino to 14 years, 10 years, and just under nine years in prison, respectively.

On August 8, 2020, the defendants were detected by the United States Coast Guard Cutter FORREST REDNOUR traveling northbound off the shores of San Diego in the middle of the night. When five Coast Guard officers went to intercept the vessel, Ojeda Agundez, who was at the helm, aggressively turned the go-fast vessel towards the Coast Guard and rammed a Coast Guard smallboat, causing damage and injury to Coast Guard officers.  The defendants then led the Coast Guard on a high-speed chase on the open water.   

As the vessel continued closer to shore, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air & Marine Operations took over the pursuit. The defendants’ vessel attempted to ram the CBP vessel as well, but officers were able to bring the defendants’ vessel to a stop.  When law enforcement boarded the vessel, they discovered ice chests filled with close to 500 pounds of methamphetamine.  The defendants were brought to shore and arrested, where the investigation was continued by special agents with Homeland Security Investigations’ Marine Task Force.    

In 2012, a similar sequence of events resulted in the death of Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III. In that case, a drug-laden panga intentionally rammed a Coast Guard smallboat off the coast of Santa Barbara, ejecting Chief Petty Officer Horne and another officer into the water. Chief Petty Officer Horne was struck by a propeller in the head and fatally injured.

“This case is a reminder of the heroism, bravery, and professionalism that Coast Guard officials employ on every mission to safeguard the United States from drug smugglers,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman.  “Violence against the Coast Guard will not be tolerated and will be aggressively prosecuted by this office.”  Grossman thanked the prosecution team and investigating agencies for their excellent work on this case.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time the lives of our Coast Guard members have been threatened by drug smugglers,” said Rear Admiral Andrew Sugimoto, commander, Coast Guard District 11. “Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III was killed during a counter-smuggling operation. Those individuals responsible for taking his life and threatening the lives of other Coast Guard members were held accountable. As a service, we do not take these actions lightly and I trust the decision of the courts to continue to hold these criminals responsible for their continued disregard for life.”

“This case highlights the dangers of maritime drug smuggling,” said HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz. “HSI is grateful for its federal, state and local law enforcement partners and servicemembers who despite the dangers, continue to deny transnational criminal organizations the opportunity to carry out their illegal drug smuggling activities. HSI will continue to aggressively investigate criminal organizations who smuggle by sea, air or land.”

DEFENDANTS                                                         Case Number 20cr2509-JLS                       

Miguel Ojeda Agundez                                             Age: 26                                               Mexico

Arturo Velasquez Soto                                               Age: 44                                               Mexico

Jose Luis Parada Reyes                                             Age: 53                                               Mexico           

Juan Diaz Hernandez                                                 Age: 55                                               Mexico                                                          

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Counts 1-3 (All Defendants)

Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine on Board a Vessel –

Title 46, U.S.C., Section 70503, 70506(b)

Maximum Penalty: Life in prison and $10 million fine

Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine Onboard a Vessel; Aiding and Abetting  –
Title 46, U.S.C., Section 70503, Title 18, U.S.C., Section 2

Maximum Penalty: Life in prison and $10 million fine

Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine Intended for Unlawful Importation  –
Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 959, 960, 963

Maximum Penalty: Life in prison and $10 million fine

Counts 4, 6-15 (Defendant Ojeda Agundez only)

Failure To Heave To

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 2237

Maximum Penalty: Five years in prison and $250,000 fine

Assault on a Federal Officer with a Dangerous Weapon

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 111(a)(1)

Maximum Penalty: Twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine

Assault with Intent to Commit Any Felony

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 113(a)(2)

Maximum Penalty: Ten years in prison and $250,000 fine

Count 5 (Defendants Ojeda Agundez and Velasquez Soto only)

Failure To Heave To

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 2237, Title 18, U.S.C., Section 2

Maximum Penalty: Five years in prison and $250,000 fine

AGENCIES

United States Coast Guard

Customs and Border Protection

Homeland Security Investigations

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
CAS22-0805-Ojeda
Updated August 5, 2022