US Navy Sailor Accused of Trying to Smuggle 5 Kilos of Cocaine Out of Colombia

ABC News’ Kirit Radia and Luis Martinez report:

A U.S. Navy sailor has been caught allegedly trying to smuggle about five kilograms of high-grade cocaine out of Colombia, U.S. State Department and Defense Department officials told ABC News.

A spokesman for U.S. Fleet Forces Command identified the enlisted sailor as Gunner’s Mate Lemar Deion Burton, 26. He was based at Navy Munitions Command at Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily, Italy.

“This person is not a member of the U.S. official mission in Colombia,” the U.S. embassy in Bogota, Colombia, said in a statement. “We respect the rule of law in Colombia and the Colombian penal system and we believe that that the judicial process should run its course in all cases.  Because of privacy concerns, we cannot comment further on this matter.”

Burton was arrested for cocaine possession on Oct. 12 as he tried to leave the country via Bogota’s El Dorado airport. The U.S. embassy was notified almost immediately and American consular officials visited him in La Modelo prison in Bogota on Oct. 13.

“He was on personal leave and not in an official capacity,” U.S. Fleet Forces Command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Mike Kafka told ABC News.

Local news reported Burton was planning to fly to Paris and then to Rome and had the cocaine concealed in a hidden compartment in his luggage.

Colombia is prosecuting the sailor because he was not on official travel and, therefore, not covered by any immunity protections, the local news reports added. He could face up to five years in prison for drug transport and trafficking.