Federal authorities announced operation Pangeros Locos this week that led to the extradition to San Diego of a South American maritime businessman who supports vessels that traffic drugs from Colombia.
Pedro Cornelio Pilligua Iduarte, owner of several Ecuadorian-flagged boats that provided logistical support to drug-laden boats, was extradited from Spain.
Iduarte, an Ecuadorian citizen, was detained by Spanish authorities in April 2021 while visiting Madrid.
Weeks before his arrest, in March 2021, a federal grand jury indicted Iduarte for conspiracy to traffic substantial amounts of cocaine from South America.
According to court documents, several Ecuadorian fishing vessels provide material support to vessels to enable them to transport tons of cocaine over thousands of nautical miles of open ocean from Ecuador and Colombia to Mexico, for eventual distribution to the United States.
The Ecuadorian logistics support fleet provides fuel, spare parts, communication devices, or anything else needed to help drug ships complete their thousand-mile journey smuggling metric tons of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico.
“Without that support, the drug vessels, typically pangas or low-profile vessels, would not be able to complete the long journey,” according to the indictment.
So far, Pangeros Locos has led to the seizure of more than 50,000 kilograms of cocaine, charges of 27 fishing boat captains and owners, and prosecution of 65 cocaine boat crew members.
Participating in the operation are Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Guard Investigative Service.
The Justice Department's Office of International Affairs worked with San Diego US Attorney Randy Grossman to secure Iduarte's extradition.