Judge sentences Coast Guardsman for attempting to smuggle cocaine

Boston man, 27, apprehended in Baltimore by U.S., city officials


News from around the Baltimore region

July 09, 2005|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,SUN STAFF

A 27-year-old Coast Guardsman trained to intercept drug smugglers trying to enter the United States was sentenced yesterday to more than 17 1/2 years in prison for orchestrating a cocaine shipment through Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. also sentenced Wendy Bens of Boston to four years of supervised release for conspiracy to import cocaine and related drug and firearms charges.

Bens could have received a sentence of up to 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine.

Bens was convicted Oct. 26. Evidence presented by prosecutors showed that the electrician's mate had been a petty officer assigned to the cutter Spencer, which is based in Boston and whose crew did drug interdiction work in the Caribbean.

In January 2004, prosecutors said, Bens paid a courier, a former Coast Guardsman from Grenada, to travel to Curacao to pick up a suitcase that had about 5.4 pounds of cocaine hidden in its lining. When the courier arrived at BWI in January, he was stopped by customs officers, who discovered the cocaine and arrested him.

Meanwhile, Bens traveled from Boston to a location in Baltimore with another petty officer, Jonathan Louis DeCarlo, 24, of Boston, intending to pick up the suitcase of cocaine, according to prosecutors. For the transaction, Bens had armed himself with a semiautomatic handgun. He and DeCarlo also brought two Coast Guard-issue bulletproof vests that had been taken from their ship.

Immigration agents, assisted by the Coast Guard and Baltimore police, were waiting at the location.

On Jan. 31, 2004, Bens and DeCarlo arrived in Baltimore where they picked up a suitcase. But law enforcement agents, tipped off by the previously arrested courier, had placed a fake substance inside designed to look like cocaine.

The pair took the suitcase to a hotel room, where they were arrested by federal agents.

DeCarlo previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and was sentenced to four years in prison. The courier also pleaded guilty, but has not yet been sentenced.

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