Two Eastern European sailors were sentenced to 25 years in prison on Friday for smuggling $10 million worth of cocaine on their boat. 42-year-old Igor Polshyn from Yalta, Ukraine, and 52-year-old Oleskii Tsurkan from Moscow, Russia, had already been found guilty in court on September 30, 2016.
At their trial, prosecutors established that on November 7, 2015, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection P-3 Orion aircraft detected a sailboat 56 miles south of the Dominican Republic, traveling at night on the high seas with no lights, and on a course to travel through the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
The Orion crew alerted the United States Coast Guard, which dispatched the USCG Cutter Bernard C. Webber (photo above) to interdict the vessel. The Webber interdicted the sailboat 26 miles south of the Dominican Republic, still on a course to take it through the Mona Passage. The sailboat flew the Spanish flag and bore a Spanish registration number on the stern. Polshyn was the master of the vessel and Tsurkan was its sole crew member.
The Coast Guard eventually boarded the sailboat and, during an initial safety sweep, found over 100 kilograms of cocaine over a bilge access. The Coast Guard ultimately recovered an additional 270 kilograms of cocaine, for a total of 370 kilograms (814 lbs.) of cocaine, including cocaine commingled with the food supplies of the crew.
Officials from DEA-Madrid and the Coast Guard Investigative Service traced the vessel registration number back to a sailboat near Barcelona, Spain. The sailboat interdicted by the Coast Guard was a “ghost ship,” using the stolen identity of the vessel in Barcelona to mask its true identity. The recovered cocaine had an approximate wholesale value of $10 million.
It is unknown who were the ultimate parties - buyer and seller - behind the large shipment. As the two sailors prepare to do their time, it seems unlikely we will find out anytime soon.
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