Two men from the Dominican Republic were sentenced Friday in a large-scale cocaine trafficking conspiracy.
District Court Judge Anne E. Thompson sentenced Luis Antonio Rijos-Santana, age 51, of the Dominican Republic, to 95 months in prison and Maurucio Javier Diaz, age 30, also of the Dominican Republic, to 50 months in prison for possession of cocaine on board a vessel. Thompson also sentenced Rijos-Santana to six years of supervised release and ordered him to pay a special assessment of $100. Diaz was sentenced to two years of supervised release and ordered to pay a fine of $500 and a special assessment of $100.
Diaz and Rijos-Santana entered guilty pleas to possession of a controlled substance on board a vessel on July 10, 2017, and July 19, 2017, respectively. Court documents revealed that while on routine patrol along the north coast of Puerto Rico, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter operator Richard Dixon, together with assistance provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, located a vessel operating without lights, approximately 58 nautical miles north of Fajardo, Puerto Rico in international waters. The Coast Guard and CBP observed Diaz, Rijos-Santana, and co- defendant Carlos Manuel Castro Felix discarding small items, consistent with electronics, over the side of the vessel. Rijos-Santana was the operator of the vessel, which bore no markings and flew no flag.
The Coast Guard intercepted and boarded the vessel, where officers discovered 45 bales of cocaine with a net weight of 909 kilograms.
Felix was originally charged along with Diaz and Rijos-Santana. He entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 70 months in prison on Feb 1.
The incident was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security-U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alphonso G. Andrews, Jr.