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USAO: Three South Americans and One Central American Smuggled 3,384 Pounds Of Cocaine By Sea

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Three South Americans and one Central American were charged with smuggling 3,384 pounds of cocaine into the region, authorities said.

Freddy Montano Paz, 29, Calixto Tumbaco, 41, Mariano Abregon, 42, and Hector Hernandez, 48, were each charged with conspiracy to possess and possession of a controlled substance on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

The complaint alleges that Montano Paz, Tumbaco, Abregon and Hernandez were all on board a go-fast style vessel that was intercepted by a United States Coast Guard (USCG) cutter while on routine patrol.

The USCG first sighted the go-fast vessel on May 10 about 250 nautical miles northwest of Esmeraldas, Ecuador.

Esmeraldas, Ecuador in South America

The vessel did not have any display indicating its nationality. After being detected, the occupants, which consisted of two Columbian nationals, one Ecuadorian national, and one Mexican national, began tossing the bales of suspected narcotics overboard their vessel.

The USCG disabled the go-fast vessel, and upon boarding the vessel, successfully seized 40 bales of suspected narcotics, including the bales that were tossed overboard.

The 40 recovered bales contained approximately 1,535 kilograms (3,384.096 pounds) of a white powdery substance that field tested positive for cocaine, according to Shappert.

This case is being investigated by the USCG and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Delia Smith.

Shappert said that an indictment is merely a formal charging document and is not in and of itself evidence of guilt.

“Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty,” she said.

Colombia shares a border with Ecuador.
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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everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling.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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