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Narcotics
03/07/2012

Third crew member sentenced in multi-ton maritime cocaine seizure

TAMPA, Fla. — A Colombian man was sentenced Thursday to 14 years in federal prison for his role as a crew member of a vessel that smuggled approximately 6,700 kilograms of cocaine in the Caribbean Sea. An investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force's (OCDETF's) Panama Express Strike Force, which includes special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), led to the sentencing.

According to court documents, Marcos Salazar Obregon, 30, a crew member on a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel, or SPSS, was interdicted by U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk Sept. 30, 2011, in international waters nearly 110 miles off of the coast of Honduras. The SPSS sank during the interdiction and Coast Guard officers detained the vessel's four crew members, who were later transferred to Tampa for prosecution.

Shortly after the interdiction, a multi-agency effort began to recover the suspected drug cargo of the sunken SPSS. Recovery operations yielded evidence including packages of cocaine totaling an estimated 6,700 kilograms from the SPSS.

SPSS crew members Jorge Alfredo Colomer Haylock and Gulforth Sual Romera Alegria were previously sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. The final crew member, Manuel Cuero Caicedo, is scheduled to be sentenced April 10.

In addition to HSI special agents, OCDETF's Panama Express South Strike Force is comprised of agents and analysts from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the Joint Interagency Task Force South.