Two indicted in cocaine-smuggling case involving 7th Special Forces Group soldier
By JIM THOMPSON | The Walton Sun | Published: December 4, 2018
PENSACOLA, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — Two people, including a Colombian citizen, have been indicted on charges related to an alleged cocaine smuggling scheme involving a 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldier who reportedly tried to get nearly 90 pounds of cocaine into the U.S. from Colombia.
Federal grand jury indictments handed down last week charge Gustavo A. Pareja, 24, of Colombia, and Henry W. Royer, 35, of North Carolina, with conspiring to possess and distribute cocaine with “reasonable cause to believe that such a substance would be unlawfully imported into the United States from a place outside thereof.”
Neither of the men is a soldier, according to Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, spokesman for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
The “superseding indictment” handed down Nov. 27 also names Master Sgt. Daniel J. Gould, a 7th Group soldier. Gould was indicted alone in October on charges of conspiring to traffic cocaine.
Gould originally had been scheduled to go to trial in November, but an October order from Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson moved the trial to January. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Jan. 7.
According to court records, Gould’s initial appearance on the charges, during which he was expected to enter a “not guilty” plea, was scheduled for Tuesday in federal district court in Pensacola.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has led the investigation into the suspected cocaine smuggling with help from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, Colombian authorities and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida.
Anne-Judith Lambert, spokeswoman for the DEA’s Miami office, said the agency would not comment on what she characterized as an ongoing case. Lambert said Tuesday that she was not aware of the additional indictments.
Like Lambert, authorities have been tight-lipped as the investigation has proceeded and indictments have been handed down. However, some details of the suspected smuggling have emerged since reports began to surface in August.
Gould reportedly was detained by U.S. authorities Aug. 13 after two “heavy bags” filled with nearly 90 pounds of cocaine were intercepted at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. The heavy bags — cylindrical punching bags used by athletes — reportedly were bound for an aircraft heading to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., headquarters for the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
The bags were intercepted by another Special Forces soldier who reportedly became suspicious about their contents. The cocaine was discovered after the bags were X-rayed by Colombian officials.
Colombia is part of the 7th Group’s area of responsibility, but Gould had been on vacation — not on military duty — before the discovery of the bags. He already was back in the U.S. when the bags were intercepted.
Gould, Royer and Pareja could face sentences ranging from 10 years to life in prison on each of the two charges.