Colombian drug lords are accused of using a historic navy ship nicknamed "the floating embassy of Spain" to sail cocaine from South America to New York City, law enforcement officials tell NBC 4 New York.
The cartel allegedly paid two crew members aboard the Juan Sebasian de Elcano -- a 371-foot steel-hulled, four-masted schooner built in 1927 for training purposes -- to ferry drugs to New York City in April and May 2014.
Authorities say the two crew members were paid about $32,000 to hide the drugs on the boat during a voyage to Manhattan. When the boat docked on Manhattan's west side on May 14, 2014, the two crew members allegedly traveled to the Bronx to deliver the cocaine to dealers for the cartel.
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Authorities say that two days later DEA agents and NYPD officers along with and state police moved and made seven arrests as the drugs were being moved through Stamford, Connecticut. More drugs and weapons were found at the Bronx safehouse.
Two suspected ringleaders -- Colombian nationals Jorge Luis Hoayeck and Jorge Alberto Siado-Alverez -- were charged Friday by the New York State Special Narcotics Prosecutor on drug smuggling counts.
The pair are accused of coming up with the plan to use the Spanish ship to smuggle 8 kilos of cocaine. Investigators said both men are on a wiretap discussing the plan.
When the ship returned to Spain, authorities there conducted a search and found 127 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a storeroom.
In 2014 – after visiting France, Italy and Morocco, it crossed the Atlantic to visit Colombia, the Dominican Republic and New York.
New York officials said they are now seeking extradition for Siado-Alvarez and Hoayeck.
If convicted, the men could face up to life in prison.