A Special Forces soldier accused of a multimillion-dollar drug-smuggling attempt is heading to trial, and he faces life in prison

US Army/Master Sgt. Alejandro LiceaA US sniper team assigned to the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group competes in an unknown-distance event in Colombia, July 26, 2014.
  • An Army Special Forces soldier was arrested in August in relation to a drug-smuggling attempt.
  • The soldier, a master sergeant and recipient of the Silver Star, will go to trial on conspiracy charges in November.
  • Authorities are reportedly investigating if other military personnel were involved in or aware of the attempt.

Daniel J. Gould, an Army master sergeant and Special Forces soldier, will go to trial next month on two conspiracy charges related to a drug-smuggling attempt foiled in August.

Gould, a highly decorated veteran of Afghanistan, was arrested in Florida on August 13 in relation to an attempt to bring 90 pounds of cocaine from Colombia into the US aboard a military aircraft.

Gould had already returned from Cali, Colombia, when the drugs were found aboard the plane, hidden in two military backpacks. A military official told NBC News at the time that a service member found the drugs and notified authorities while the plane was still in Colombia.

Gould was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group based at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida. The unit is heavily involved in counter-drug operations and its area of responsibility is is Latin America south of Mexico and the waters around Central and South America.

The indictment, filed in the Northern District of Florida and unsealed this week, charges Gould with two counts of conspiracy, alleging he “did knowingly and wilfully combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with other persons to distribute a controlled substance … intending, knowing, and having reasonable cause to believe that such a substance would be unlawfully imported into the United States.”

US Army Special Forces Eglin OspreyUS Air Force/Master Sgt. Jason RobertsonA joint special operations force, including US Army Special Forces soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group, board a CV-22 Osprey during a joint capabilities demonstration at Eglin Range Complex in Florida, May 3, 2018.

The indictment also orders Gould to forfeit property used in the alleged offence or derived from proceeds of it.

“If convicted, the defendant faces 10 years to life in prison for each of the drug trafficking conspiracy charges,” Amy Alexander, a public information officer for the Northern District of Florida’s US Attorney’s Office, said in an email.

Gould’s trial is scheduled to start on November 13 at the US Courthouse in Pensacola, Florida, Alexander said.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration is also involved in the investigation related to the suspected smuggling attempt.

According to an August 26 report by Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, DEA investigators in that country were looking to found out who may have helped Gould acquire and transport the cocaine – which would be worth several million dollars when sold in the US – and whether military personnel involved in putting the drugs on the plane were aware of what was going on.

Other US military personnel have been involved in such drug-trafficking attempts in the past.

“It’s not unusual for servicemen to take advantage of the drug trade to make a lot of money,” Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for DEA, told Business Insider in August.

They “have access to these foreign countries. They have contacts, and a lot of times they actually smuggle the drugs on military aircraft,” Vigil added at the time, pointing to cases he was involved in during the 1970s in which US service members smuggled heroin from Southeast Asia to the US, often carrying it in their personal luggage.

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