Six Colombian Nationals Plead Guilty To Conspiracy To Use “Narco-Submarines” To Smuggle Over 19,000 Kilograms Of Cocaine To The Sinaloa Cartel

Crack cocaine. Stock Photo by DEA.

Tampa, FL – Acting United States Attorney Karin Hoppmann announces that six individuals have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a conspiracy to distribute cocaine using vessels subject to the jurisdiction of the United States (see chart below for details).

A separate co-conspirator, Jimmy Riascos-Riascos, was sentenced in January 2020 to 24 years and 4 months’ imprisonment for his role in the same conspiracy. Another co-conspirator in that case, Alonso Pineda-Torres, a/k/a “Galladita,” is awaiting sentencing.

According to the plea agreements filed in this case, the defendants were part of a transnational criminal organization that dispatched self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessels, sometimes known as narco-submarines, from Colombia into the Pacific Ocean, destined for Sinaloa Cartel members in Oaxaca, Mexico. The defendants served various roles and responsibilities such as overseeing security at the SPSS construction sites and building the fiberglass hulls for these vessels. Fernando Pineda-Jimenez was identified as, and admitted to, being the boss of the organization.

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In July and August 2015, and March 2016, in international waters, the United States interdicted three SPSS vessels that had departed from Colombia and were en route to Mexico. The first SPSS carried approximately 6,900 kilograms of cocaine, the August 2015 SPSS carried approximately 6,845 kilograms of cocaine, and the March 2016 SPSS contained approximately 5,824 kilograms of cocaine. In total, the SPSS vessels carried over 19,000 kilograms (or nearly 42,000 pounds) of cocaine.  A substantial portion of that cocaine was ultimately intended for the United States.  A separate SPSS, linked to Rodrigo Pineda-Torres, was seized in October 2017 in Colombia before it could be loaded with cocaine.

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This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force, a standing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force comprised of agents and analysts from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force South. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs substantially assisted in the extradition of the defendants to the United States. This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at

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The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dan Baeza.


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