4 Ecuadorian nationals charged with trafficking more than 700 kilograms of cocaine


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – A federal grand jury returned an indictment Thursday charging four Ecuadorian nationals with trafficking after being caught with more than 700 kilograms of cocaine.

The group was intercepted on the Pacific Ocean while traveling on unflagged vessels.

According to the indictment and to a criminal complaint filed earlier this year, Julio Luis Rosado Benitez, 47, Maunel Alexi Quijije Mero, 26, Oscar Arcenio Sanchez Garcia, 26, and Kevin Antonio Franco Bonilla, 24, were found traveling on unflagged go-fast vessels several hundred nautical miles off the coast of Mexico and Guatemala.

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter intercepted the boats, and boarding teams recovered the cocaine.

All four defendants are charged with possession with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine onboard a vessel without nationality.

If convicted, they face a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

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