The cocaine importation case of David Karl Lobo reached its conclusion Friday in Grand Court when the customs officer was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Lobo was found to have played a “leading role” in a smuggling operation that brought 1.8 kilograms into Cayman in May of 2017.
The court heard that Lobo had communicated with the smugglers prior to their arrival and had helped arrange for their accommodations in Cayman where they converted liquid cocaine back into powder.
Lobo and four co-conspirators were all sentenced Friday, March 29, by Justice Linda Dobbs.
The other four had pleaded guilty to a variety of offences, and a jury convicted Lobo of cocaine importation in January following a lengthy trial.
Collector of Customs Charles Clifford told the Compass on Friday that Lobo’s employment was terminated following the sentencing hearing.
During the trial, the court heard that Lobo was seen leaving the location where the smugglers were later found and arrested with nearly $13,000 in cash in his car. The arresting officers also found receipts from wire transfers that were later traced to the smugglers before they had arrived in Cayman.
Justice Dobbs noted that Lobo’s position could cause a “diminishing trust” from the public in government institutions. She also mentioned that Lobo had many positive character references on file as part of his social inquiry report, but she said she didn’t believe the operation was an anomaly.
Justice Dobbs also sentenced Lesme Perez Ruiz and Alan Taylor Dominguez, both of whom were characterised as “middle man” in the transaction. Both Ruiz and Dominguez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine and importing cocaine and provided evidence that helped convict Lobo.
As part of her sentence, Justice Dobbs noted that both defendants had provided “significant assistance” to the Crown. Ruiz was sentenced to five years in jail, while Dominguez received a four-year sentence.
Text messages from their cellphones showed that Dominguez and Ruiz had begun discussing the possibility of importing cocaine to Cayman as early as February of 2017. Ruiz, who had been based in Colombia, would oversee the smuggling, while Dominguez would provide contacts in Cayman.
Ruiz landed in Cayman with one pair of couriers on May 12, and he later tried again on May 31. Ruiz and the two couriers in the second operation were arrested by the RCIPS on June 2 of 2017.
The couriers, Jose Leonardo Parra Ferrini and Yoandry Morales Molina, pleaded guilty to ingesting condoms full of cocaine and expelling them upon arrival and were both sentenced to six years on Friday.
Justice Dobbs said the couriers played a lesser role in the smuggling operation and acted under the direction of Ruiz, and she related that couriers are often “more vulnerable” and “open to exploitation”.
Justice Dobbs said Ruiz was somewhat more involved in the operation than Dominguez, who was not in Cayman at the time of the second smuggling operation and was arrested last among the defendants.
A social inquiry report for Dominguez noted that he has a low risk of re-offending.
Lobo had been previously acquitted on a similar charge of importation of cocaine in 2013,
Justice Dobbs noted that Lobo had now lost both his job and his reputation as a result of the conviction.
The judge said that time served in prison would count against the sentences for each of the defendants. She also ruled that Lobo would receive no credit for roughly a year spent at home on an ankle monitor and nightly curfew while waiting for the trial to be conducted.