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Guilty Plea in Pot Smuggling Plot

April 8, 1998

SEATTLE (AP) _ An Indonesian man pleaded guilty to charges he tried to smuggle more than $15 million worth of marijuana into the U.S., one of three men rescued off the Washington coast after setting fire to a sailboat laden with as much as 5,000 pounds of pot.

Amir Tobing could receive up to five years in prison when he is sentenced June 19. He entered his plea in U.S. district court last week.

Five years ago, he was captain of the ill-fated Golden Venture, a ship that ran aground on a sandbar off New York with 300 Chinese nationals hidden aboard. Ten immigrants drowned in the winter water or died of hypothermia.

In 1994, Tobing was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison for conspiracy to smuggle aliens. He was deported in November 1996.

In December, the Coast Guard went to the aid of a burning sailboat five miles off the Washington state coast and rescued three men. Then they spotted marijuana bales floating in the water.

Prosecutors say Tobing and two other defendants, John Ricker and Jim Garbocauskas, set fire to the Ok Tedi, a 54-foot Autralian-registered sailboat that was carrying as much as 5,000 pounds of marijuana, as the Coast Guard was approaching.

The Coast Guard recovered about 3,800 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $15 million. The boat sank.

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