Port drug smuggler gets 9 years in prison


The man found guilty of smuggling a kilo of cocaine at the Port of Charleston was sentenced to nine years in prison Friday in federal court in Charleston.

Oscar Baptiste, 40, of East Hartford, Conn., also known as “Dread,” was also sentenced to four years of supervision after his release. He is also subject to deportation when he finishes serving his sentence, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Bianchi.

On Oct. 23, Baptiste was found guilty of importing more than 500 grams of cocaine into the United States from Panama on March 22, 2011.

Federal authorities got word that Baptiste was looking for a business partner that had access to the Port of Charleston and could help distribute cocaine that would be ripped out of containers from Panama, according to a federal affidavit. A confidential informant advised Baptiste that there was a dock worker available “that could assist,” the affidavit stated.

A cereal box with a 1.05 kilogram brick of cocaine was found in March tucked inside a container carried on a Maersk ship, according to the affidavit from a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Charleston, after multiple contacts between the informant and Baptiste.

The container had been closed with a counterfeit seal, documents say.

Baptiste was born and raised in Panama but became a permanent resident of the United States in 2002, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by his attorney. At the time of his arrest, Baptiste had a pending petition for U.S. citizenship.

He has a wife and four children. In April 2011, Baptiste was laid off from his job as a fiber-optic assembly technician in Connecticut, the memo stated.

Baptiste’s attorney, Marco Torres, had asked the court for a 60-month sentence for Baptiste because of some circumstances since his arrest. In his memo, Torres stated that Baptiste suffered an assault inside the Georgetown County Detention Center by another inmate that led to a concussion and other head and facial injuries.

He had also been detained for more than a year since his arrest, according to Torres’ memo.