NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Three Colombian nationals pleaded guilty today to possessing with the intent to distribute nearly 1,500 kilograms of cocaine when they were interdicted in an unregistered vessel on the Pacific Ocean.
According to court documents, on August 6, 2020, Eliovar Pineda, 45, Jenuar Angulo, 40, and Marcial Cuero, 68, were intercepted with 1,479 kilograms of cocaine, while traveling in international waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean. The street value of the cocaine in Newport News is between $45-55 million. Pineda, Angulo, and Cuero were caught aboard a “Go Fast” vessel, which had no indicia or markings of nationality.
While on routine patrol in international waters, the United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Hamilton was dispatched to intercept a go-fast-vessel that had been located approximately 90 nautical miles southwest of Coiba Island, Panama. The USCGC Hamilton subsequently launched a helicopter, which was able to come in contact with the go-fast-vessel. The go-fast-vessel then became disabled and a subsequent boarding resulted in the detainment of the three smugglers while still in international waters. Members of the Coast Guard boarding team subsequently seized approximately 1,479 kilograms of cocaine.
Pineda, Angulo, and Cuero are scheduled to be sentenced on July 12, 2021. Pineda faces up to twenty years in prison while Angulo and Cuero face up to life in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge David J. Novak accepted the pleas.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric M. Hurt is prosecuting the case.
This investigation was conducted by DEA’s Hampton Post of Duty and the U.S. Coast Guard, with assistance from the Hampton Police Department, Newport News Police Department, Newport News Sheriff’s Office, and York County Sheriff’s Office.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:20-cr-66.