Most crew members charged in cargo ship cocaine seizure waive probable cause hearing

Steve Tawa
June 24, 2019 - 4:44 pm
At least 17.5 tons of cocaine with more than $1 billion in street value was seized at the Philadelphia seaport, being the largest cocaine seizure in the 230-year history of U.S Customs and Border protection.

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — At the federal courthouse, five of six crew members accused of helping to smuggle a record load of cocaine on a route through Philadelphia had brief appearances. They met with lawyers and Serbian and Samoan interpreters while authorities may be going after more people or entities.

A week after the staggering 35,000 pounds of cocaine was seized from containers on an international cargo ship docked at the Philadelphia seaport, five of six defendants appeared in federal court. 

Prosecutors sought detention.  

U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain says if convicted, all face potential life prison sentences. All had an opportunity to answer the government's call for detention and then have a probable cause hearing. 

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If it happened, federal authorities would be obligated to describe some of their alleged roles in hauling aboard 17.5 tons of cocaine under the cover of darkness somewhere between Panama and the Peruvian coast.

Instead, nearly all waived or stipulated, meaning they'll be held for trial with no information coming out in open court. Federal prosecutors have been able to seal all court documents, keeping the illicit journey a mystery, as to who was behind it.