Ecuadorian Man Pleads Guilty to Drug Conspiracy Charge

An Ecuadorian man pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge Monday, prosecutors say.

Anthony Rommel Cuero Garcia, 24, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possession with intent to distribute cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

According to court documents, on Nov. 15, 2021, while on routine patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, a Maritime Patrol Aircraft spotted a low-profile vessel approximately 77 nautical miles north of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. The United States Coast Guard and Coast Guard Cutter HAMILTON were diverted to the scene.

Upon arrival, Coast Guard officers encountered the low-profile vessel, which was outfitted with three outboard engines, had no flag flown, no registration numbers, nor name painted on the hull. After boarding the vessel, the boarding team encountered four individuals, later identified as Luis Rodriguez, a Columbian national, and Eliecer Pineda Torres, Carlos Benitez Estupinan, and Anthony Cuero Garcia, all Ecuadorian nationals. With no claimed nationality or master of the vessel, the vessel was determined to be subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. After that, Coast Guard officers inspected the vessel and found approximately 43 bales that contained 1,298 kilograms of cocaine.

Cuero Garcia’s sentencing date is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2023.

The United States Coast Guard, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Customs and Border Protection investigated the case, and it is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Melissa P. Ortiz.