U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday sentenced Valencia in a Tampa, Florida, federal courtroom.
Valencia, a top crime-gang leader, was sentenced specifically for conspiring with other drug-traffickers to distribute upwards of five kilograms of cocaine on boats traveling within the jurisdiction of the United States, and for conspiring with others to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine intending that it be unlawfully imported into the United States.
According to a joint-press statement from a number of American law enforcement agencies, the defendant pleaded guilty on Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a plea-deal.
According to court documents, Moreno-Valencia was the organizational head of a Colombian-based drug trafficking organization. He was responsible for arranging the transportation of several maritime smuggling ventures in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. In November 2014 and December 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted over 800 kilograms of cocaine aboard vessels commonly referred to as “go fast boats.”
Valencia’s RICO (Racketeering Influence and Criminal Organization) case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force, an OCDETF comprised of agents and analysts from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the military’s U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force South.
The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.
Obama Budget Cuts for Border Protection
The Obama Administration’s budget cuts for the U.S. Coast Guard may be a necessary evil for Americans but it’s proving to be a bonanza for Mexican drug cartels, Colombian cocaine traffickers and others involved in the contraband smuggling that’s becoming more frequent and more sophisticated, according to police and national security professionals in a Fox News story.
“Obama’s budget cut request for the Coast Guard weighs the prospect of reducing the Maritime Safety & Security Teams from 12 units to seven as well as retiring nine aircraft and five Coast Guard cutters,” predicted an Examiner news story.
Adam Housley of Fox News wrote on Thursday that “drug smugglers are moving some of their operations away from the U.S.-Mexico land border and out into the ocean where it’s easier to avoid law enforcement.”
According to an Examiner report: “The U.S. Coast Guard suffered drastic [budget] cuts under President Bill Clinton in the 1990’s that became part of his so-called ‘Peace Dividend.’ It practically languished as part of the Transportation Department. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the creation of the Homeland Security Department, the Coast Guard held a unique position. On one hand, it was folded into the new department with other agencies such as the U.S. Border Patrol, and on the other hand it would serve as part of the Department of Defense if needed.”
Under President Obama, according to Housley’s report: “Federal spending cuts have forced the Coast Guard to reduce its operating costs by 25 percent. While helping the government reach deficit reduction targets, this is also threatening efforts to reach President [Barack] Obama’s goal of intercepting 40 percent of illicit drug shipments by 2015. Over the last several years, the cartels have moved further offshore as their boats have gotten more sophisticated. The area they operate in has tripled in size in just the last year — and is now roughly the size of Montana.”