Santo Dominican National Pleads Guilty to Possession and Cocaine Distribution

A Santo Dominican has pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges, United States Attorney Delia L. Smith announced Thursday.

33-year-old Leandro De Los Santos of the Dominican Republic pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, according to the release.

According to court documents, on Sept. 11, 2022, while on routine patrol south of the Dominican Republic, a maritime patrol aircraft detected a go-fast vessel navigating on a northerly course approximately 80 nautical miles south of Bani, Dominican Republic. The U.S.S. Billings was dispatched to the area when crew members observed that the vessel had no flag flown, no registration numbers and no name painted on its hull. The Dominican Republic Navy later advised that the vessel was not registered with their country. The vessel was therefore treated as one without nationality, thereby subjecting it to laws of the United States. Onboard the vessel, the U.S.S. Billings boarding team detained De Los Santos and another individual and located 18 bales of cocaine weighing approximately 630 kilograms.

A sentencing date for De Los Santos has been set by the Court for Aug. 4, where he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The United States Coast Guard, Homeland Security Investigations and Drug Enforcement Administration are investigating this case, and Assistant United States Attorney Evan Rikhye is prosecuting the case.