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Ecuador man gets 4.75 years in prison after guilty plea to cocaine conspiracy at sea

Ecuador man gets 4.75 years in prison after guilty plea to cocaine conspiracy at sea

CHRISTIANSTED — A man from Ecuador was given a sentence of 4.75 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to cocaine smuggling.

Carlos Benitez Estupinan, 30, of Quito, was sentenced to 57 months incarceration, followed by two years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment, U.S. Attorney Delia L. Smith said today.

U.S. District Judge Wilma A. Lewis handed down that sentence after Benitez Estupinan pled guilty to conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

According to court documents, on November 15, 2021, while on routine patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, a maritime patrol aircraft detected a low-profile vessel traveling at approximately 77 nautical miles north of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

The United States Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton later intercepted the 52’ vessel which had no flag flown, no registration numbers, and no name painted on the hull.

Four individuals, including Estupinan, were found on board the vessel. Neither individual claimed nationality for the vessel, subjecting the vessel to the jurisdiction of the United States. Coast Guard officers recovered 43 bales which contained 1,298 kilograms of cocaine from the vessel.

This case was investigated by the United States Coast Guard, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It was prosecuted by Assistant United States
Attorneys Daniel H. Huston.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at

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