A former 7th Special Forces Group soldier and a West Virginia National Guard Special Forces soldier pleaded guilty Dec. 21 and Dec. 17, respectively, to two federal charges each of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, according to court documents and a release from the Justice Department.
Former Master Sgt. Daniel Gould, 36, and Sgt. 1st Class Henry Royer, 35, had planned to smuggle 90 pounds of cocaine ― about $1 million worth ― on a military transport plane from Colombia to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, according to federal court documents.
“Suspicion was aroused at the United States Embassy when packages were x-rayed, revealing cocaine within gutted out punching bags,” the DoJ release said.
Gould received an administrative discharge on Dec. 7, U.S. Army Special Operations Command spokesman Lt. Col. Loren Bymer told Army Times on Thursday.
Royer had been a member of 19th Special Forces Group, according to an Army official who was not authorized to speak on the record. He is now assigned to the West Virginia National Guard Army training center, according to Guard spokesman Kurt Rauschenberg.
Gould had been visiting Cali, Colombia, on a personal trip to execute the plan, but had already returned home to Crestview, Florida, when the Drug Enforcement Administration received a tip.
It was not the first time Gould had attempted to bring cocaine back from Colombia, but it was the first time he got caught.
Gould and Royer first hatched a smuggling plan in early 2018. Royer traveled to Cali with $9,800 in cash to buy 10 kilos, or about 22 pounds, staying with Gould at Gould’s apartment in Cali.
They bought the cocaine from a third co-conspirator, Colombian national Gustavo Pareja, then stuffed it into a hollowed-out punching bag and had a driver take it to the Bogota airport, where it was put on a military transport back to Florida.
They then returned to Northwest Florida and sold the cocaine to a distributor.
“The defendant and co-defendant Royer then decided to reinvest the money from the first load of cocaine into a second load ― of greater quantity,” according to court documents.
This time, Gould put $65,000 in a box loaded on a military aircraft heading back to Colombia, where a driver picked it up and kept it for Gould and Royer, who went back to Cali in August. This time, they loaded 40 kilos, or about 90 pounds, of cocaine into punching bags, but U.S. officials were tipped off.
The men face 10 years to life in prison for each of the counts. Gould is due in court for sentencing on March 12.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT