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  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
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  3. Colombian National Sentenced for Trafficking More Than $55 Million in Cocaine

Colombian National Sentenced for Trafficking More Than $55 Million in Cocaine

Release Date: July 5, 2024

TAMPA, Fla. — A Panama Express Strike Force, or PANEX, investigation has led to the second conviction of a Colombian national for smuggling cocaine on the high seas by a so-called go-fast vessel, this time for attempting to smuggle with intent to distribute more than 3,100 kilograms of cocaine worth more than $55 million.

Jhon Zambrano Caicedo, 37, of Colombia, was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in federal prison for conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine on a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. He entered a guilty plea in March.

According to the plea agreement, a maritime patrol aircraft spotted a panga-style go-fast vessel in the Pacific Ocean, about 60 miles north of the nearest point of land in Ecuador. The vessel was suspected of drug smuggling because it had several fuel barrels, had no registration numbers on the hull, was flying no flag, was operating at a high rate of speed, and was sailing in a location where maritime drug smuggling by similar vessels is common. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and law enforcement team were deployed from USCG Cutter James to intercept the suspicious vessel.

The helicopter signaled the vessel to stop, but its crew was noncompliant until warning shots were fired. The boarding team found Zambrano Caicedo and two others aboard. Zambrano Caicedo had previously been convicted in the Southern District of Florida for trafficking approximately 750 kilograms of cocaine via a go-fast vessel on the high seas in February 2016.

The PANEX is a standing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Strike Force comprising agents and analysts from Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South. PANEX, which identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the U.S. using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multiagency approach, investigated the case.

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Haynes.

Last Updated: 07/05/2024
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