Three men were arrested after police discovered nearly 2,200 pounds of cocaine following a search of their boat in Panama.
A coastguard interrupted the men's journey after they had been traveling from the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia. They were aboard a large 65-foot boat based in Florida that departed on April 27.
The U.S. Coast Guard search party found the cocaine worth $27 million on board the boat and immediately arrested the men. Beat Jegge, Daniel Velazquez and Julio Claro Alvarez were all placed into custody following the major discovery.
An attorney in the case said Alvarez was not guilty of drug smuggling because he was not aware of what the trips purpose was. The attorney said, "My guy was a low man on the totem pole. He has no criminal history, is unsophisticated and has a rudimentary knowledge of reading and writing. He is a day labourer in Colombia and was brought on board the boat to do some cleaning. Once aboard the vessel he was stuck," the Jamaica Observer reports.
When the men appeared in U.S. federal district court, they pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute 2,200 pounds of cocaine that were reportedly wrapped in bags.
According to the indictment, FBI officials were told by Alvarez that he was paid before the trip, $2,500 U.S. dollars. He said he was also promised $5,000 to take a vessel to "pick up backpackers," the Jamaica Observer reports.
Jegge also told FBI agents he went on the trip in exchange for $2,000 in advance, as well as $333,000 after they completed the trip.
If the men are convicted, they could each a face a life sentence.
by RTT Staff Writer
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