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
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.