Crew member pleads guilty in $1 billion cocaine bust at Port of Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- One of the crew members charged in connection with a historic drug bust at the Port of Philadelphia last June has pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking.

Federal agents discovered nearly 20 tons of cocaine on board the MSC Gayane last June at the Packer Marine Terminal.

During the ship's voyage, Vladimir Penda, along with five other crew members, allegedly loaded the cocaine onto the ship from speedboats, and then stashed the drugs in shipping containers.

Penda, 27, entered a plea of guilty before United States District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine on a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

Federal, state, and local law enforcement agents boarded the MSC Gayane when it arrived at Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia and seized approximately 20 tons of cocaine on the ship, with a street value of over $1 billion.

Penda faces a maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment.

The case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Customs and Border Protection, together with a multi-agency team of federal, state, and local partners.
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