Sailor gets 10 years in Ship Channel cocaine smuggling
An El Salvadorian man was sent to federal prison earlier this week for his role in trying to smuggle cocaine into Houston aboard a cargo ship that docked at the Ship Channel last year, federal officials announced Thursday.
Edwin Quintanilla, 41, an El Salvadorian citizen and legal permanent resident of the United States, was sentenced Jan. 11 to 10 years and 1 month in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms (11 pounds) of cocaine, federal officials said.
Federal officials said Quintanilla was among three men convicted in the smuggling operation. He was arrested April 18, 2010 along with Ricardo Castillo, 46, a Colombian citizen and legal permanent resident of the U.S., and Filipino Eduardo Villar, 40.
The trio was indicted May 17.
Villar, who pleaded guilty and testified against his co-defendants, was sentenced on Nov. 19, to time served and was deported to the Philippines. Quintanilla and Castillo were convicted Aug. 27. Castillo was sentenced Nov. 29 to 12 years and seven months in federal prison.
Federal officials said Villar was a crewman aboard the cargo ship "Stolt Basutto" when he told the captain that a man known to him only as "Calvo" brought 33 pounds of cocaine aboard in Colombia.
Villar said that Calvo asked him to deliver the cocaine to someone named "Flaco" when the ship docked in Houston, federal officials said. He would be paid $10,000 upon delivery.
The ship's captain contacted U.S. authorities about the plan.
Agents with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement boarded the ship when it reached Galveston Bay, arrested Villar and confiscated the cocaine, federal officials said.
Federal officials said Villar cooperated with authorities in a sting to catch the others. He called the phone numbers he had been given to contact the person who was to receive the cocaine in Houston.
The phone calls resulted in Villar meeting Quintanilla at a WalMart in Pasadena to exchange the cocaine for the money that Villar had been promised if he made the delivery, federal officials said.
Quintanilla only had $7,500, but Villar demanded $10,000.
Federal officials said Quintanilla then made several phone calls, met with Castillo and returned to Villar and gave him $9,800.
Villar gave Quintanilla a suitcase that contained two backpacks which held the cocaine, federal officials said.
Federal agents then arrested Quintanilla and Castillo. Federal officials said a cell phone found on Castillo was the phone Villar had called to arrange the drug delivery.
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