Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Mellor (619) 546-9733 and Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney Nicole Bredariol (619) 546-8419
SUMMARY OF PRESS RELEASE – February 11, 2022
SAN DIEGO — Pedro Cornelio Pilligua Iduarte, the owner of several Ecuadorian-flagged vessels that allegedly provided logistical support to drug-laden vessels, was extradited to the United States from Spain yesterday.
On March 19, 2021, a federal grand jury sitting in the Southern District of California returned an indictment charging Pilligua Iduarte and others with participating in a long-running conspiracy to traffic substantial amounts of cocaine from South America to the United States.
An Ecuadorian national, Pilligua Iduarte was apprehended by Spanish authorities in April 2021 while traveling to Madrid. He arrived in San Diego on February 11, 2021 and made his first appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard G. Skomal. He is summoned for a detention hearing before Judge Skomal on February 17, 2022, at 1:30 p.m.
This case is part of Operation Pangeros Locos, a multi-year investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection, and United States Coast Guard Investigative Service and had a significant impact impact on the distribution of medicines from countries of origin in South America.
According to court documents, several Ecuadorian fishing vessels, based in Manta, Ecuador, operated with impunity while providing material support to drug-laden vessels to enable them to transport tons of cocaine thousands of nautical miles in high seas from Ecuador and Colombia to Mexico. , for possible distribution in the United States. These fishing vessels provide fuel, spare parts, communication devices or anything else needed to help drug-laden vessels complete their thousand-mile journey by smuggling metric tons of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico. Without the support provided by captains and owners of fishing vessels, these drug-laden vessels, usually pangas or low-profile vessels, would not be able to make this long journey. This investigation resulted in the seizure of more than 50,000 kilograms of cocaine, the indictment of 27 captains and owners of fishing boats and the prosecution of 65 crew members for cocaine.
“The Ministry of Justice appreciates the cooperation of the Spanish authorities in this matter. With the help of our law enforcement colleagues at home and around the world, we will relentlessly pursue every avenue available to bring drug traffickers to justice,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. Grossman thanked the pursuit team and agents from the San Diego Strike Force, led by Homeland Security Investigations as well as representatives from the DEA, FBI, US Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) and Customs and Protective des frontières for their excellent work on this matter.
“This extradition sends a resounding message to drug traffickers around the world that the United States law enforcement community will vehemently pursue those who seek to harm Americans with their deadly drugs and violence,” said Chad Plantz. , special agent in charge of HSI San Diego. commended the efforts of the San Diego Strike Force for their support and contribution to this criminal investigation and extradition.
“This indictment is a testament to the success of our collaborative efforts to disrupt transnational criminal organizations and prevent illicit drugs from reaching America,” said Rear Admiral Brian Penoyer, commander of the Coast Guard’s Eleventh District. “It is a privilege to work alongside the dedicated women and men of the Department of Justice and the Southern District of California who play such a critical role in the successful team effort to stop these organizations. The hard work of our Coast Guard ships and crews in the Eastern Pacific Ocean results in indictments like this that are busting smuggling organizations, putting people smugglers behind bars and keeping drugs off our streets.
This lawsuit was brought under the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Enforcement Task Force (OECDTF) co-located strike force initiative, which provides for the creation of permanent multi-task task force teams. -agencies working side by side in the same location. This co-located model allows agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations against a continuum of priority targets and their affiliated illicit financial networks. These co-located, prosecutor-led strike forces leverage the synergy created by the long-term relationships that can be forged by agents, analysts, and prosecutors sticking together over time, and they embody the pattern that s proved to be the most effective in the fight against organized attacks. criminality. The San Diego Strike Force’s specific mission is to target the most prominent drug trafficking organizations in Mexico, Central America, and South America.
The OECDTF was established in 1982 to carry out comprehensive, multi-layered attacks against major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and is the backbone of the Department of Justice’s drug reduction strategy. Today, the OECDTF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement. The primary mission of the OECDTF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations, transnational criminal organizations and money laundering organizations that pose a significant threat to public, economic or national of the United States.
The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs worked with law enforcement partners in Spain to secure Pilligua Iduarte’s arrest and extradition to the United States.
The United States is represented in court by Assistant United States Attorneys Joshua Mellor and Nicole Bredariol.
The public is reminded that an indictment is not proof of guilt. The accused is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial in which the government bears the burden of proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Respondent Criminal case No: 21-cr-0896-JLS
Pedro Cornelio Pilligua Iduarte
alias Don Pedro, alias Corne, alias P, alias Patron, alias Jefe
International conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 USC §§ 959, 960, and 963. Duration of detention including a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life imprisonment, $10 million in fine.
Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine aboard a vessel, contrary to 46 USC §§ 70503 and 70506. Duration of custody including a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to incarceration at life, $10 million fine.
Homeland Security Investigations
Drug Enforcement Administration
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Customs and border protection
United States Coast Guard Investigative Service
National Police of Ecuador
National Police of Colombia
United States Marshals Service
Department of Justice, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces
Department of Justice, Bureau of Law Enforcement Operations
Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs