San Francisco Chronicle

Seized From
Frogmen at
S.F. Pier

By Maitland Zane

In a fog-shrouded scene right out of a B

movie, federal agents on a San Francisco

waterfront stakeout seized 400 pounds of

cocaine early yesterday after frogmen

from a Colombian freighter swam ashore

carrying bundles of the drug.

At least five Bay Area men were among the 12

Latinos arrested in what U.S. Attorney Joseph Rus-

soniello described as the largest cocaine smuggling

seizure in memory on the West Coast.

Customs agents estimated the wholesale value

of the drug at $12 million, but Russoniello said the

street value after "routine dilution" would be

about $750 million.

But Joe Krueger, agent in charge of the Drug

Enforcement Administration office, estimated the

street sale value at $100 million. He put the whole-

sale value at $11 million or more.

Forty agents from the Customs Service, the

FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Immi-

gration and Naturalization Service took part in the

4 a.m. arrests at India Basin's Pier 96.

Several shots were fired by one of the smug-

glers, but no one was hurt, agents said.

Russoniello held a news conference in the FBI

headquaters at 450 Golden Gate Avenue, where

several duffel bags containing drugs were dis-

played, as well as an Israeli-made Uzi machine gun

and several pistols.

Robert Downey, area patrol director for U.S.

Customs, said nothing illegal was found aboard the

freighter, Ciudad de Cucuta, when customs agents

routinely searched the ship Sunday


Apparently because of a tip,

agents kept the ship under surveil-

lance anyway, and their vigilance

paid off.

Russoniello said he has not yet

decided whether forfeiture pro-

ceedings will be instituted against

the ships owners, the Gran Colom-

biana line. Russoniello said several

other ships owned by Gran Colom-

biana have been involved in drug

smuggling cases. The captain of the

Ciudad de Cucuta was not arrested

or detained.

Downey said that about 2 a.m.

yesterday, a customs "surveillance

unit" saw seven men jump off a

truck on Cargo Road, near Pier 96,

and head across a marshy field

toward the bay.

Soon after, Downey said,

agenu spotted two frogmen in wet-

suits with bundles wrapped in

waterproof paper.

"The cocaine was being swum

in to shore," said Russoniello.

When the agents moved in, one

of the frogmen fired a burst from

his Wilkinson "Linda" machine

gun, but no one was hurt and the

man surrendered without incident.

Downey said.

Downey said three of the men

arrested were believed to be

"counter-surveillance" confeder-

ates who had been cruising the area

keeping a lookout for the federal


The following Bay Area men

are due to be arraigned today be-

fore a U.S. magistrate:

Carlos Guestabo Ortiz, 27, an

electrician from San Francisco;

Hoover Ortiz. 30, a Daly City me-

chanic; Julio Mena, 33, a San Bruno

truck driver; Marcos Rodriguez, 24,

no occupation listed, of Daly City;

and Humberto Calero, 39, a Hay-

ward draftsman.

Others included Sacria Mo-

raeno, 32, Arnoldo Botero, 30, both

of Calle, Columbia, as well as Carlos

Juan Losano, a Los Angeles sea-

man; Marco Llanos, 23, of Miami,

Fla.; Alberto Lebron, 29, of New

York City; Miguel Cruz, 20, no ad-

dress; and Rudolfo Boniolla Santies-

teban, 39, no address.