NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Four Ecuadorian nationals were charged in court Friday after their unflagged vessels were intercepted on the Pacific Ocean with over 700 kilograms of cocaine.
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.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf intercepted the boats, and boarding teams recovered a total of over 700 kilograms of cocaine.
The 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 10 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.