Guatemalan man who was extradited to Ohio pleads guilty in Colombia-to-America cocaine conspiracy

Published 1:28 pm Sunday, June 27, 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Guatemalan man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to charges related to a Colombia-to-America cocaine conspiracy.

 

In March 2020, Jose Luis DeLeon-Baltazar, 40, was extradited to Columbus from Bogota, Colombia. He is the second defendant to be extradited to the United States in this case.

 

As part of his plea, DeLeon-Baltazar 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.

 

DeLeon-Baltazar, also known as “Enano,” was indicted in September 2018.  Specifically, DeLeon-Baltazar 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 at least 10 years 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 to free higher-level members.

 

Specifically, DeLeon-Baltazar received multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine transported on go-fast speed boats from Colombia into Guatemala.  Once the cocaine arrived in Guatemala, DeLeon-Baltazar hid the cocaine in buildings in Tecun Uman, Guatemala until the cocaine was transported across Guatemala’s northern border into Mexico.  On May 19, 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted a go-fast boat that contained 880 kilograms of cocaine approximately 400 miles south of the Guatemal/Mexico. That shipment was to be received by DeLeon-Baltazar in Guatemala where he would store it until it was to be transported to Mexico.

 

Additional cocaine shipments seized in this case thus far include:

 

  • 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.

 

Vipal J. Patel, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Keith Martin, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Richard S. Fambro announced the plea offered today before U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan J.C. Grey, Elizabeth R. Rabe, and Kelly A. Norris are representing the United States in this case.