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Press Release

Jury Convicts Three Men of Trafficking Nearly $17 Million Dollars of Cocaine

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – August 14, 2019

SAN DIEGO – Three defendants were convicted by a federal jury on charges stemming from their efforts to traffic approximately 734 kilograms (1614 pounds) of cocaine -- worth nearly $17 million dollars -- on the high seas. The verdict came yesterday afternoon after a 10-day trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California before the Honorable Janis L. Sammartino.  

At trial, the United States proved that on May 24, 2017, a United States Maritime Patrol Aircraft spotted a suspicious vessel alongside multiple packages of suspected floating contraband in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, approximately 364 nautical miles south of Chiapas, Mexico.  The patrol aircraft notified the nearby the United States Coast Guard Cutter WAESCHE, which launched two small boats to intercept the vessel.  The United States Coast Guard found Defendants aboard a vessel approximately 50 yards away from 15 bales of cocaine.  The United States Coast Guard detained the defendants, recovered the cocaine, and transported them to the United States. 

“This verdict is a result of the dedication of our law enforcement partners at the Coast Guard and DEA as well as the excellent trial advocacy of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Francis DiGiacco, Victor Pablo White, and Nicole Bredariol,” said U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer, Jr. “Stopping dangerous drugs before they reach our shores is a key priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and we will continue to target these maritime smuggling routes to protect the citizens of our district.”

“These smugglers have been brought to justice thanks to the dedication of the cutter Waesche’s officers and crew,” said Rear Adm. Peter W. Gautier, Eleventh Coast Guard District Commander.  “This seizure adds to the thousands of kilograms of deadly narcotics seized at sea every month through the efforts of the Coast Guard, our partner agencies, and partner nations. Together we will continue our determined fight against narcotics trafficking and the criminal networks that threaten our country.”

“We may not have a wall at sea, but we do have an elite group of DEA Agents working from South America, Central America and Mexico to protect the land, sea and air borders in San Diego and Imperial Counties,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers.  “Utilizing all tools available, DEA merges actionable intelligence with the capabilities of other agencies to unleash the Coast Guard’s fury to stop drugs from getting to the United States.  One Team, One Goal – to keep Americans safe and free from the scourge of illegal drugs.”

This case is the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

The defendants will be sentenced on November 15, 2019 before the United States District Judge Janis L. Sammartino.

DEFENDANT                                                            Case No.   17-CR-1585-JLS

Jorge Ivan Cobena-Laje (41)                                     

Jose Manuel Murillo-Pivaque (33)

Diomedes Valverde-Magla (65)


Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine on Board a Vessel - 46 U.S.C. §§ 70503 and 70503(b)                                 

Maximum Penalty: Life in prison and $10,000,000 fine

Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute on Board a Vessel

46 U.S.C. § 70503

Maximum Penalty: Life in prison and $10,000,000 fine


U.S. Coast Guard

Drug Enforcement Administration

Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Taskforce (OCDETF)


Assistant U.S. Attorneys Francis DiGiacco (619) 546-6771, Victor P. White (619) 546-8439, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Bredariol (619) 546-8419

Updated August 14, 2019

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: CAS19-0814-Cobena-Laje