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Five of Seven Venezuelan Natives on Vessel Have Now Pleaded Guilty To Marijuana Smuggling

CHRISTIANSTED – Two Venezuelan natives admitted in federal court to their respective roles in bringing 357 pounds of marijuana to the region.

Felix Gomez, 38, and Rosauro Morao, 43, each pled guilty on Wednesday in U.S. District Court to one count of Possession of a Controlled Substance on Board a Vessel, United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

This federal offense carries a possible sentence of up to 40 years in prison, a maximum fine of up to $5,000,000 dollars, and a term of supervised release of at least two years. Sentencing is set for December 21, 2018.

According to court documents, on May 8, 2017, at approximately 7:50 pm, a patrol aircraft associated with the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force South located a northbound go-fast vessel (GFV) approximately 105 nautical miles west of Martinique traveling at a speed of 25 knots.

The vessel was located in a known drug trafficking route. It had five outboard engines and contained multiple fuel barrels and suspicious packages visible on deck.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley was directed to intercept the vessel. Upon arrival, the crew of the GFV were observed tossing the suspicious packages and fuel barrels overboard.

Ultimately, the crew of the Cutter Donald Horsley recovered eight bound packages, which contained approximately 162 kilograms (357 pounds) of marijuana.

The defendants were two of seven Venezuelan national crew on board the go-fast boat. Gomez was observed to be the operator of the boat.

Co-defendant Juan Rodriguez previously entered a guilty plea on August 13, 2018, and co-defendants
Jesus Garcia and Jhoan Gomez entered a guilty plea on August 15, 2018.

The Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley is a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter home ported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The case was investigated by the United States Coast Guard and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel Huston.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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