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Leader of Colombian drug trafficking organization pleads guilty to cocaine importation conspiracy

TAMPA, Fla. — A Colombian man pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring with others to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine onboard a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The guilty plea resulted from an investigation by the Panama Express South Strike Force, which includes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jose Samir Renteria-Cuero, aka Jose Morfi, 51, faces between 10 years and life in prison. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.

According to the plea agreement, Renteria-Cuero was involved in maritime cocaine smuggling operations from the 1980s until at least 2009. He started out as a mechanic, servicing go-fast vessels and participating in go-fast vessel smuggling operations. Eventually, he acquired go-fast vessels and self-propelled semi-submersible vessels and recruited mariners to participate in maritime cocaine smuggling operations. Renteria-Cuero worked with others to transport and store cocaine in Colombia, construct and repair go-fast vessels and semi-submersible vessels, and dispatched those vessels from Colombia. Renteria-Cuero provided maritime cocaine transportation services aboard these vessels where he smuggled cocaine from Colombia to Mexico, via the Pacific Ocean, with the final destination of the United States. Many of these ventures involved at least 1,000 kilograms of cocaine.

Renteria-Cuero was arrested in Cali, Colombia, in March 2012, and subsequently extradited to the United States.

The Panama Express South Strike Force is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which identifies, disrupts and dismantles the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation's drug supply. In addition to HSI, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South participate in the task force.