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Costa Rican Boat Captain Admits He Was Paid $60K To Bring 1,307 Pounds Of Marijuana

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A native of Costa Rica admitted in federal court that he captained a vessel that tried to introduce at least 1,307 pounds of marijuana into the region, authorities said.

Hansel Andres Centeno-Arriola of San José pled guilty on Friday to possession of a controlled substance with Intent to Distribute on Board a Vessel Subject to the Jurisdiction of the United States, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

Coast Guard helicopter from Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron in Jacksonville, Florida.
USCG photo by PA1 Donnie Brzuska

According to information provided in court and in court documents, on October 18, 2019, Centeno-Arriola was on board a go-fast style vessel that was intercepted by a United States Coast Guard (USCG) cutter while on routine patrol.

USCG crew members first sighted the go-fast vessel in international waters at approximately 45 nautical miles north of Malpelo Island, Colombia.

The vessel did not have any display indicating its nationality and Centeno-Arriola, the captain of the vessel, told members of the USCG Boarding Team that the vessel was without nationality.

At least 21 bales of marijuana, consisting of approximately 593 kilograms, were located on board the vessel and seized.

Centeno-Arriola confessed to his involvement and told agents that he was hired as a boat captain to transport the marijuana from Colombia to Costa Rica. He stated that he was to be paid a total of $60,000 dollars for his work.

Centeno-Arriola will be sentenced at a later date.

Centeno-Arriola and Cristian Valencia Mendoza were arrested on October 18 after the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter James encountered them in a go-fast boat loaded with at least 1,307 pounds of marijuana.

This case is being investigated by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the Virgin Islands Drug Enforcement Agency (VIDEA).

It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Sleeper and Donna Rainwater.

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everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling.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