Costa Rican Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Marijuana

Hansel Andres Centeno Arriola pled guilty Friday in District Court on St. Thomas to possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert announced.

In a news release issued Tuesday, Shappert said that according to information provided in court and in court documents, on Oct. 18 Arriola was on board a go-fast style vessel that was intercepted by a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter while on routine patrol. USCG crewmembers first sighted the go-fast vessel in international waters at approximately 45 nautical miles north of Malpelo Island, Colombia. The vessel did not have any display indicating its nationality and the defendant, the captain of the vessel, told members of the boarding team that the vessel was without nationality. The Coast Guard reported seizing 21 bales of marijuana, totaling about 593 kilograms, on board the vessel. The defendant confessed to his involvement and told agents that he was hired as a boat captain to transport the marijuana from Colombia to Costa Rica.

He told officials he was to be paid a total of $60,000 for his work.

The defendant will be sentenced at a later date.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Virgin Islands Drug Enforcement Agency. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Sleeper and Donna Rainwater.

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