SAN DIEGO – Three South American men who tried to smuggle more than 2,700 pounds of cocaine into the United States but dumped the narcotics into the Pacific Ocean when Coast Guard crews began pursuing them are scheduled to be sentenced in July in federal court in San Diego.
Adrian Andres Cortez-Quinonez, 24, of Ecuador; Segundo Marcial Dominguez-Caicedo, 35, of Colombia; and Victor Gaspar-Chichande, 29, of Ecuador, were convicted late Tuesday by a San Diego federal jury of conspiracy and possession to distribute cocaine.
According to federal prosecutors, on Dec. 31, 2017, the Coast Guard launched a helicopter and two small boats to intercept a “suspicious vessel” spotted about 100 nautical miles north of the Galapagos Islands. The men attempted to speed away from the Coast Guard chopper, and when that failed, they began dumping “dozens of bales of cocaine overboard,” prosecutors said.
A Coast Guard sniper aboard the helicopter disabled the boat’s engines, prosecutors said, leading to the defendants’ arrests.
Prosecutors said the trio were trying to smuggle 2,706 pounds of the drug valued at more than $28 million.
“These traffickers attempted to smuggle more than one ton of cocaine into the United States — which would have had a devastating impact on our communities,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers said.
The men are slated to be sentenced July 15 before U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez.