Felix Gomez, age 38, and Rosauro Morao, age 43 on Wednesday became the fourth and fifth Venezuelan nations to plead guilty in an offshore cocaine smuggling case.
The two pled guilty in District Court on St. Croix to one count each of possession of a controlled substance on board a vessel, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced.
The federal offense carries a possible sentence of up to 40 years in prison, a maximum fine of up to $5 million and a term of supervised release of at least two years. Sentencing is set for Dec. 21.
According to court documents, at approximately 7:50 p.m. on May 8, 2017, a patrol aircraft associated with the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force South located a northbound go-fast vessel about 105 nautical miles west of Martinique traveling at a speed of 25 knots. The vessel was located in a known drug trafficking route. It had five outboard engines and contained multiple fuel barrels and suspicious packages visible on deck. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley was directed to intercept the vessel. Upon arrival, the crew of the vessel were observed tossing the suspicious packages and fuel barrels overboard.
Ultimately, the crew of the Cutter Donald Horsley recovered eight bound packages containing approximately 357 pounds of marijuana. The defendants were two of seven Venezuelan national crew onboard the GFV. Defendant Gomez was observed to be the operator of the boat.
Co-defendant Juan Rodriguez previously entered a guilty plea on Aug. 13, and co- defendants Jesus Garcia and Jhoan Gomez entered a guilty plea on Aug, 15. (See Related Links, below.)
The case was investigated by the United States Coast Guard and the Drug Enforcement Administration. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel H. Huston.