Alleged cocaine smuggler takes stand against co-defendant

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA. (KPLC) -He's on trial for what's described as the biggest ever cocaine bust in Calcasieu parish history. But family members say Carlos Hurtado was just trying to get to the U.S. to see his brother who was near death after a shooting.

Prosecutors say it's a case about 176 bricks of cocaine that came from Venezuela to the Port of Lake Charles.

176 kilos of cocaine-- found on an unnamed island only discovered after the alleged couriers made a 911 call because they were close to freezing to death. They had stowed away on a ship and when they jumped soon found themselves in need of a rescue-

Carlos Hutado of Venezuela is on trial on four charges including conspiracy and unlawful importation of cocaine along with drug possession and illegal entry into the country. But Hurtado's family says he was only making a desperate attempt to see his brother Mauricio who had been shot and might die.

Mauricio and his wife Shea are in Lake Charles for the trial. Says Shea, "Since the day he was shot Carlos as been doing everything he can to try to be with his brother. I believe that Carlos would have gotten on the back of an elephant and walked over here over a year just to be with his brother as long as he could."

Mauricio says it's so hurtful, what his brother has gone through. "Me and him are very close you know. And he love me so much. I love him so much.""

Shea says it's painful for both. "It breaks my heart to see Carlos go through what he's going through all because he wanted to be with his brother."

The other illegal immigrant rescued from the island was Felipe Gonzales of Colombia, who had previously been convicted of drug smuggling--one of reason deputies returned to the island to search it.

Gonzales has made a plea deal with the government but has not yet been sentenced. The packages of cocaine wrapped in balloons were found in eight duffel bags in all nearly four hundred pounds-- with an estimated street value of $6 million dollars.

Gonzales testified against hurtado this afternoon. He'll be back on the stand tomorrow morning when the defense will cross examine him. The trial is expected to wrap up tomorrow.

Copyright 2010 KPLC. All rights reserved.