Charter captain pleads guilty to cocaine smuggling

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A boat captain is facing up to life in prison after admitting that he smuggled more than 1,100 pounds of cocaine — with a street value of about $14.5 million — into South Florida on board a luxury charter yacht called Secret Spot.

Jonathon Costenbader, 34, of Palm Beach County, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to import cocaine in federal court in West Palm Beach, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Federal prosecutors filed court records indicating they have evidence that he was paid to import at least $20 million worth of the drug during five trips between late June and early October, when he was arrested.

Costenbader's girlfriend, Michelle Daniel, 33, of Jupiter, Fla., and another man, Steven Torello Davis, 26, pleaded guilty to related conspiracy charges on Friday. The trio are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 21.

Federal agents seized cocaine with a street value conservatively estimated at $8 million on Oct. 6 when they arrested Costenbader and Daniel after the yacht docked at Palm Harbor Marina in West Palm Beach, court records show.

Costenbader told agents that he captained the 106-foot Lazzara to the Bahamas and back and picked up several bags of cocaine from a smaller vessel, according to court records. Agents said he told them he expected to be paid $705,000 for the last trip and was paid more than $500,000 for a similar venture a month earlier.

"He said there was still about $200,000 hidden at his residence, but that he spent the rest of the smuggling proceeds, mostly in gambling losses," agents wrote, according to the paper.

Costenbader agreed to cooperate and deliver sham cocaine to his contact at a parking lot on Okeechobee Boulevard, east of I-95. Davis was arrested when he picked up the drugs. He told agents he had paid Costenbader $1.08 million for four prior deliveries since late June.

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