Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew has sentenced Rudolph Randolph Meighan (28, Belize), Jorge Ramon Newball-May (49, Colombia), and Calbot Reid-Dilbert (59, Colombia) each to 19 years and 7 months in federal prison for their roles in an international maritime cocaine trafficking conspiracy. In May 2019, a federal jury found Randolph Meighan, Newball-May, and Reid-Dilbert each guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine while onboard a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and one count of possession with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on that vessel.
According to evidence presented at trial, Randolph Meighan, Newball-May, and Reid-Dilbert were part of an international maritime drug smuggling operation involving more than 600 kilograms of cocaine, worth approximately $18 million, bound for the United States. Randolph Meighan was the Belizean load guard for a Cartagena, Colombia-based cocaine smuggling crew, which included Newball-May and Reid-Dilbert as crewmembers. Prior to their interdiction by the U.S. Coast Guard, the individuals were transporting approximately 30 to 40 bales of cocaine onboard a go-fast vessel from Colombia to Belize, following a known cocaine smuggling route known as the “Honduras Rise.”
On December 1, 2018, a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 aircraft deployed from Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C. spotted and recorded the defendants onboard a go-fast vessel traveling north at a high rate of speed, approximately 110 nautical miles southwest of Jamaica. In an attempt to destroy evidence and evade capture, the defendants jettisoned all of the cocaine bales onboard the vessel and sank them to the ocean bottom by tying the bales to the outboard engines and throwing the engines (their only means of propulsion) overboard.
Later that day, Randolph Meighan, Newball-May, and Reid-Dilbert and their now engine-less vessel were interdicted and boarded by USCG officers from the Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET) Pacific. That boarding yielded crucial evidence consistent with cocaine trafficking, including trace amounts of cocaine present both on the smuggling vessel and on the defendants.
This case was investigated by the Panama Express Strike Force, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) comprised of agents and analysts from the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force South. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply. The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Nicholas DeRenzo and Assistant United States Attorney Dan Baeza.