Defendants Charged with Intent to Distribute 720 Kilos of Cocaine in First of its Kind Case in Southern Ohio
Alleged Conspirators to be Transported Today to Columbus
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Four defendants are being transported to Columbus, Ohio today for federal prosecution in the Southern District of Ohio after being charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute approximately 720 kilograms of cocaine. The more than 1,584 pounds of cocaine has an approximate street value of $25 million in total.
The defendants were apprehended in August near the Galapagos Islands, making this the first case in which the Southern District of Ohio is seeking to prosecute defendants captured in international waters.
Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Timothy J. Plancon, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Adm. Paul Zukunft, made the announcement.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint in this case, Ecuadorian nationals Hernan Emilio Caldas-Estupinan, Oscar Alipio Chila-Mendez, Carlos Alfredo Escobar-Estupinan and Mexican national Jesus Antonio Ramos-Chirino were detected in a dual engine speed boat on August 18 northwest of the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The United States Coast Guard cutter James was dispatched to interdict the vessel in international waters and conduct a Right of Visit boarding. The watercraft had no flag flown, no registration documents, no registration number, homeport or name on the hull of the vessel, no identification of a sailing master and no claim of nationality for the vessel.
As part of its interdiction efforts, the James launched a helicopter and two patrol craft to approach the boat. When the defendants detected the helicopter and patrol craft, they began to jettison numerous packages from the vessel while attempting to flee from the helicopter.
The Coast Guard helicopter fired warning shots in an attempt to halt the flight, and when those warning shots went unheeded, the helicopter employed disabling fire. Once the vessel had been disabled, one of the patrol craft launched from the James took control of the vessel.
Coast Guard personnel collected the 25 packages that had been thrown from the boat and discovered that they contained approximately 720 kilograms of cocaine.
The cocaine seized in this case will be included in 50,690 pounds of cocaine and heroin worth more than $679 million from narcotics cases in six federal districts nationwide that is being offloaded by the Coast Guard today in San Diego, Calif. United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions will announce the series of drug removals with the Coast Guard at noon today.
U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the DEA and United States Coast Guard, as well as Assistant United States Attorneys David DeVillers and Jonathan Grey, who are prosecuting the case.
A criminal complaint merely contains allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
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