Hillsborough briefs

Briefs and news of note

By Times Staff
Published July 19, 2006

8 convicted of towing cocaine underwater

TAMPA - A group of eight Colombians accused of using a fishing boat to tow an underwater vessel filled with 5,500 pounds of cocaine across the Pacific Ocean pleaded guilty Monday to charges of drug possession.

The defendants face a maximum penalty of life in prison when they are sentenced on Oct. 13 in Tampa before U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore.

The Colombians were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard on Aug. 19, 2005. The underwater vessel filled with cocaine was made of steel and was 31 feet long and 4 feet wide. It was equipped with an electronic transmission device, and was being towed behind a fishing boat. This was the first time U.S. agents captured an underwater vessel used to transport cocaine from Colombia, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors in the case were Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Croff and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Tuite.

No one injured in fire in auto shop service bays

TAMPA - A fire destroyed three cars inside an unoccupied automobile repair shop Tuesday night.

Hillsborough County firefighters responded around 7:30 p.m. to Business Grade Auto Repair at 14517 Nebraska Ave.

Heavy black smoke poured from the vehicle bays as firefighters forced entry to the business to try to bring the blaze under control.

Fire Rescue spokesman Ray Yeakley said the fire appeared to have started inside one vehicle on a lift then spread to two others. The makes and models of the affected vehicles were not clear on Tuesday night.

The fire was under control within 30 minutes. No one was injured. An electronics business next door suffered some smoke damage, Yeakley said.

An investigator was on scene late Tuesday, trying to determine the exact cause.

Driver killed when SUV veers into truck's path

THONOTOSASSA - Victor L. Guerrero, a 21-year-old Brandon man, died Monday evening when his sport utility vehicle veered into the path of a semitrailer truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Guerrero, who lived at 313 Providence Road, was driving a 1996 Chevrolet SUV north on U.S. 301, when he crossed a double-yellow center line and hit a southbound truck head-on, the patrol said.

The collision happened at 9:16 p.m., south of Walker Road, troopers said. Guerrero was the only person in the vehicle.

The driver of the truck, Molden L. Dozier, 58, of Lakeland, was not injured, troopers said.