Captain of drug-smuggling boat sentenced to 16 years in prison

SAN DIEGO – The captain of a methamphetamine-filled boat that slammed into a Coast Guard vessel during a high-speed chase off the shores of San Diego in August 2020 was sentenced in federal court Friday to 16 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Miguel Ojeda Agundez, 26, is one of four defendants who were found guilty of a 15-count federal indictment with trafficking close to 500 pounds of methamphetamine; failure to stop for the Coast Guard; and assault on five Coast Guard officers who were injured as a result of the ramming, spokesperson Kelly Thornton of the Office of the United States Attorney Southern District of California stated in a release.

Arturo Velasquez Soto, 44, Jose Luis Parada Reyes, 53, and Juan Diaz Hernandez, 55, were previously sentenced in court to 14 years, 10 years and just under nine years in prison, respectively, according to Thornton.

On Aug. 8, 2020, five Coast Guard officers approached a vessel traveling northbound off the shores of San Diego in the middle of the night when the captain, Ojeda Agundez, “aggressively” rammed a Coast Guard smallboat, prompting a high-speed chase on the open water, attorney officials said. The collision caused damage and injury to Coast Guard law enforcement.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air & Marine Operations took over the pursuit once the vessel got closer to the shoreline, Thornton said. A second attempt at ramming into the CBP vessel was made by the suspects’ boat, but officers were able to stop the vessel.

Ice chests filled with close to 500 pounds of methamphetamine were discovered onboard the vessel, per officials. The four men were then arrested.

“This case is a reminder of the heroism, bravery, and professionalism that Coast Guard officials employ on every mission to safeguard the United States from drug smugglers,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said.  “Violence against the Coast Guard will not be tolerated and will be aggressively prosecuted by this office.”  Grossman thanked the prosecution team and investigating agencies for their excellent work on this case.

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