COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Guatemalan man pleaded guilty on Wednesday in U.S. District Court to charges related to a Colombia-to-America cocaine conspiracy.
In October 2019, Francisco Golon-Valenzuela was extradited to Columbus from Panama.
As part of his plea, Golon-Valenzuela admitted he conspired with others to ship hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia, via sea and land, through Central America and Mexico to the United States.
Golon-Valenzuela, also known as “El Toro,” was indicted in September 2018. Specifically, Golon-Valenzuela pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute at least five kilograms or more of cocaine on the high seas, which is a federal crime punishable by 10 years up to life in prison.
According to court documents, as part of the conspiracy individuals would use “load” coordinators to assist with logistics of cocaine shipments, locate drivers and boat operators for narcotic-laden vehicles and vessels, and secure shared investments from multiple co-conspirators in specific cocaine shipments.
Fishermen and other commercial maritime laborers were allegedly recruited by conspirators to transport cocaine and refueling vessels.
Conspirators allegedly paid a “tax” or “fee” to send cocaine through areas controlled by a different drug trafficking organization or cartel.
Members of the conspiracy allegedly shared information on the activities and locations of law enforcement and military personnel assigned to interdict narcotics shipments. It is alleged co-conspirators also sheltered individuals who were at risk of extradition to other countries.
Low-level co-conspirators would allegedly take responsibility for an entire load of seized cocaine in order to free higher-level members.
Cocaine shipments seized in this case thus far include:
· 880 kilograms of cocaine seized by the United States Coast Guard near the Guatemalan/Mexico border on May 19, 2016;
· 720 kilograms of cocaine seized by the United States Coast Guard northwest of the Galapagos Islands on Aug. 18, 2017; and
· 34 kilograms of cocaine seized by the Guatemalan Policia National Civil in San Marcos, Guatemala on or about Nov. 26, 2017.
Four defendants were transported to Ohio for prosecution in September 2017, following the 720 kilogram seizure near the Galapagos Islands. That seizure alone included more than 1,584 pounds of cocaine, equaling an approximate street value of $25 million.