Sixteen Tons of Cocaine Seized from Cargo Boat, Crew Charged With Drug Trafficking

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jun 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

Federal law enforcement recently made one of the biggest cocaine busts in the history of the Eastern Seaboard when they seized a cargo ship at a Philadelphia port. The criminal charges for drug trafficking that are likely to follow are going to revolve around who knew or should have known of the drug's presence on the ship.

16 Tons of Cocaine Seized from International Cargo Boat

Federal investigators boarded an international cargo boat at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in Philadelphia on June 18, 2019, to uncover 15,000 kilos of cocaine, or over 16 tons of the drug.

An estimated street value for the drugs is over $1 billion.

The cargo boat, called the Gayane, is registered from the African country of Liberia. However, it was sailing from Peru, the Bahamas, Panama, and Columbia, and was destined for Europe, where it had stops in the Netherlands and France.

Investigators think that the drugs were destined for Europe.

At least two crew members have been charged with federal drug trafficking. Other crew members may be charged in the future.

According to the criminal complaint against one of the crew members, the chief officer of the boat offered $50,000 for help moving nets of cargo from the ship's crane and into the hold after leaving Peru. The complaint against another crew member mentions small boats approaching the Gayane between Chile and Panama with additional shipments.

Drug Trafficking and the Knowledge Requirement

Drug trafficking, especially federal drug trafficking, is a very severe offense that carries extensive jail sentences.

However, to prove their case under 21 U.S.C. § 841, prosecutors have to show that a defendant “knowingly or intentionally” trafficked drugs. Furthermore, they need to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt.

Just being on board a ship that was ferrying tons of cocaine is not enough to support a criminal case for trafficking. The reason is simple: If someone didn't even know that there were drugs on the ship, why should they be punished? There was nothing that they could reasonably have been expected to do differently.

Proving this element of the offense is often one of the most difficult things for a prosecutor to do because they have the burden of pointing to specific facts that indicate someone was aware of the drugs on board. Defending against this process often involves sitting back and waiting for the prosecution to come up with evidence that the defendant was aware of the situation, and then pointing out why this evidence fails to show that the defendant knew what was going on.

Philadelphia's Criminal Defense Lawyer: Joseph D. Lento

Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer who represents the accused in Philadelphia, including those who have been accused of a drug crime like trafficking. Invoking your rights and challenging the case against you in these situations is critical for preserving your future, and Joseph D. Lento can help.

Call his Philadelphia law office at (215) 535-5353 or contact him online for the help you need to defend against a criminal accusation.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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