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Colombian national sentenced to 20 years in prison for international narcotics trafficking

TAMPA, Fla. – A Colombian national was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine while onboard a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) as part of the Panama Express North Strike Force, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

According to court documents, Jose Rivas, 61, and a co-conspirator departed Colombia in a vessel smuggling 568 kilograms of cocaine. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard interdicted Rivas and his co-conspirator Aug. 14 in the international waters of the Caribbean Sea.

"Homeland Security Investigations and our law enforcement partners who participate in the Panama Express North Strike Force will continue to use all available resources to dismantle narcotics trafficking organizations and prevent the introduction of cocaine into our communities," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa.

Rivas pleaded guilty Dec.17.

In addition to HSI, analysts and agents from the following agencies participate in the Panama Express North Strike Force: the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South.