The Naha District Court building in Naha, Okinawa, as seen on Nov. 17, 2023.

The Naha District Court building in Naha, Okinawa, as seen on Nov. 17, 2023. (Mari Higa/Stars and Stripes)

NAHA, Okinawa — A Marine from the III Marine Expeditionary Force faces over a year in a Japanese prison after pleading guilty to attempting to import LSD through the mail.

Lance Cpl. Jorge Pavacantillo, 23, of Camp Hansen, entered his plea Friday morning in Naha District Court to a charge of violating Japan’s Narcotics and Psychotropics Control and Customs Acts.

Prosecutors alleged Pavacantillo attempted to import 1.18 grams of paper containing lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, by having it mailed to him from an unnamed co-conspirator in the U.S.

A customs official intercepted the package on April 5 at Camp Kinser in Urasoe, according to the charge sheet provided by the prosecutors’ office. Pavacantillo is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 5.

“I am deeply sorry for what I did,” he told the court Friday. “I want to apologize to the Japanese government and the Japanese people.”

Pavacantillo, a dual U.S. and Colombian citizen, is an engineer equipment operator with the 3rd Marine Logistics Group, group spokesman Capt. Brett Vannier said in an emailed statement Friday. The New Yorker joined the Marines in January 2020 and arrived in Okinawa 11 months later.

Prosecutors told the three-judge panel that the potent synthetic hallucinogen was soaked into a paper sheet and placed in a box of playing cards.

The package, addressed to Pavacantillo, was shipped from an unspecified location on March 30 and arrived at Tokyo International Airport at Haneda four days later. It arrived at Kinser April 4.

Pavacantillo, indicted Sept. 27, in court said the drug was meant for his personal use.

Prosecutors sought 1 ½ years in prison out of a possible 20 to teach the Marine a “sense of respect for rules.” Pavacantillo’s attorney requested a suspended sentence.

The hearing lasted approximately 50 minutes.

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Mari Higa is an Okinawa-based reporter/translator who joined Stars and Stripes in 2021. She previously worked as a research consultant and translator. She studied sociology at the University of Birmingham and Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Social Sciences.
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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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