Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, James Hunt, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) New York Field Division, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, and Joseph A. D’Amico, Superintendent of the New York State Police, announced today the arrest of two alleged Colombian drug traffickers who conspired to smuggle multi-kilogram quantities of heroin and cocaine to New York City aboard the emblematic Royal Spanish Navy training vessel, the Juan Sebastian de Elcano, between April and May of 2014.
JORGE LUIS HOAYECK and JORGE ALBERTO SIADO-ALVAREZ were arrested in Colombia last night pursuant to an extradition request. HOAYECK was arrested in the port city of Cartagena and SIADO was apprehended outside the city. The arrests resulted from close collaboration between the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, the DEA-led New York Drug Enforcement Task Force (DETF) Group T-42, DEA-Colombia, the Colombian National Police, and the Civil Guard of Spain. The defendants will be brought to New York City for prosecution pending further extradition proceedings.
An indictment charges HOAYECK and SIADO-ALVAREZ with Operating as a Major Trafficker under New York State’s kingpin statute, which carries a possible life sentence. HOAYECK and SIADO-ALVAREZ are also charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree, two counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, two counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and two counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of International Affairs, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Marshals Service assisted in the investigation.
Narcotics smuggled from Colombia to New York City
A long-term wiretap investigation revealed that HOAYECK and SIADO-ALVAREZ oversaw a major international drug operation from their base in Cartagena, Colombia. As part of the conspiracy, HOAYECK and SIADO-ALVAREZ allegedly supplied narcotics to New York City-based traffickers. Additionally, HOAYECK and SIADO-ALVAREZ worked with the New York City-based traffickers to sell kilogram quantities of heroin and cocaine and sought payment for the narcotics. The defendants communicated with one another and with the New York City-based narcotics traffickers by cellular phones using coded, cryptic language.
Charges in the indictment center on a shipment of eight kilograms of narcotics (over 17 lbs.), including four kilograms of heroin and four kilograms of cocaine, delivered to New York City by Spanish midshipmen in training to become officers of the Spanish Navy aboard the Juan Sebastian de Elcano. The ship was on a six-month voyage that originated in Cadiz, Spain and included stops in France, Italy and Morocco, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean for stops in Cartagena, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and New York City.
The wiretap investigation, which was pursued by Colombian authorities, revealed that HOAYECK and SIADO-ALVAREZ agreed to pay two midshipmen a total of $32,000 to hide the narcotics aboard the Juan Sebastian de Elcano and deliver it to the New York City-based traffickers.
The Juan Sebastian de Elcano is a famed, four-masted schooner built in 1927 and viewed as a symbolic “floating embassy” for Spain. The midshipmen received the narcotics while the Juan Sebastian de Elcano was docked in Cartagena on or about April 16, 2014.
Upon arriving in the Port of New York, the Spanish vessel docked on Manhattan’s West Side near the U.S.S. Intrepid. On May 14, 2014, the ship’s last full day in New York City, the midshipmen allegedly met with the local traffickers and accompanied them to a residence in the Bronx, New York in order to deliver the narcotics.
New York City-based Traffickers
Seven individuals associated with the New York City-based trafficking group were previously arrested and indicted following the delivery involving the Juan Sebastian de Elcano.
On May 14, 2014, law enforcement video surveillance captured the two Spaniards delivering the narcotics to the New York City traffickers at a residence located in the Bronx, New York. Law enforcement tracked then organization members as they subsequently transported the heroin to a second location in the Bronx, New York.
On May 16, 2014, members of DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force Group T-42 – comprised of DEA special agents, New York City Police Department detectives and New York State Police investigators – followed two vehicles linked to the New York City-based drug trafficking organization as they travelled north on Interstate 95 towards Hartford, Conn. to deliver the heroin delivered by the Spaniards (as well as additional narcotics). With assistance from the DEA’s New Haven District Office and the Hartford Resident Office, agents and officers tracked the vehicles to a residential building. The four kilograms of heroin and additional multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics, drug paraphernalia, and cash were seized at the location.
Also on May 16, 2014, the NYDETF also recovered the four kilograms of cocaine from a vehicle parked outside of the Bronx stash location. Additional narcotics, weapons, and narcotics paraphernalia were also subsequently recovered at locations in the Bronx associated with this investigation.
Narcotics Seized in Spain
After leaving New York, the Juan Sebastian de Elcano travelled to Ireland, Norway, Germany, and finally back to its home port in Cadiz, Spain. Officers with the Spanish Civil Guard conducted a thorough search of the ship and recovered 127 kilograms of cocaine (nearly 280 lbs.) in a storeroom for reserve sails. This seizure is the subject of an ongoing investigation. HOAYECK and SIADO-ALVAREZ have not been charged in connection with this shipment of narcotics.
Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan thanked her office’s Special Investigations Bureau, the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, DEA-Colombia, the Colombian National Police and the Civil Guard of Spain, as well as the DOJ’s Office of International Affairs, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Bridget G. Brennan said, “This investigation uncovered a major global drug importation scheme in which suppliers in Colombia smuggled narcotics aboard an emblematic Spanish navy schooner. A tourist attraction wherever it anchors, the ship served as the perfect cover for traffickers as it hopscotched across the Atlantic Ocean and back carrying it's illicit cargo. Here in New York, while docked near the Intrepid, sailors offloaded heroin and cocaine to local distributors. It was only through the collaboration of authorities in Spain, Colombia and here in New York that we were able to disrupt this surprising smuggling operation.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt stated, “During the height of the heroin epidemic in 2014, drug law enforcement dismantled an expansive heroin crew operating in NYC and supplying cities throughout the Northeast. Furthering the investigation, law enforcement tracked the heroin source across international waters to Cartagena, Colombia. Today's arrests of Hoayeck and Siado-Alvarez were a result of excellent law enforcement collaboration at the state, local, federal and international level. ”
“This elaborate scheme, spanning oceans, enabled high-end Colombian drugs to be smuggled aboard Spanish military ships, deep into the bowels of New York City. Today's indictment brings this drug running route - and this alleged corruption in the Spanish military - to an end,” said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.
New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico said, “I want to thank the members of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and our federal and international law enforcement partners for their work on this case. With these arrests, we have disrupted a major international drug operation that was smuggling heroin and cocaine into New York State. This case sends a strong message that those who bring dangerous, illegal narcotics into our communities will be tracked down and held accountable for their crimes, no matter where they reside.”
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Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office
New York City Police Department
DEA, New York Division
New York State Police