Feds: Former Michigan man led $100M cocaine org. planning to use underwater drone to send drugs to Europe

Ylli Didani charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine


Federal officials arrested a former Michigan resident who they say was the leader of a massive, $100 million international cocaine trafficking organization that planned to use an underwater drone to ship drugs to Europe.

Ylli Didani, 43, has been charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, acting United States Attorney Saima S. Mohsin announced.

Authorities from Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Troy, Novi, Dearborn Heights and Northfield Township were involved in the investigation of this case, according to federal officials.

Cocaine distribution

Federal officials said Didani and others planned and financed the distribution of cocaine from several places, including the Eastern District of Michigan.

Didani received at least $550,000 from others to purchase bulk cocaine twice -- in June 2016 and December 2017, a federal indictment claims.

He is accused of being part of a group that used private airplanes and commercial containerships to distribute cocaine throughout Europe, officials said.

He’s also accused of arranging the distribution of several shipments of cocaine from South America to Europe, authorities said. That cocaine was seized by law enforcement, records show.

In 2019 and 2020, law enforcement officials seized more than 3,400 kilograms of cocaine -- a street value of more than $100 million -- from Didani’s organization, according to authorities.

“This is a very significant and important prosecution of a large scale, well-organized drug trafficking organization involved in the distribution of thousands of kilograms of cocaine worth tens of millions of dollars, across multiple continents,” Mohsin said.

Didani was arrested March 31 in Charlotte, North Carolina. A criminal complaint unsealed the following day accused him of being the leader of an international drug trafficking organization with ties to the U.S., Mexico, South America and Europe.

“This indictment of a major cocaine trafficker is the result of a joint investigation with law enforcement partners from around the globe,” Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin said.

Underwater drone shipments

According to the complaint, Didani led the organization while another member oversaw the design of an underwater drone that could transport large shipments of cocaine to Europe.

Feds said the drone would be equipped with an underwater modem and GPS antenna. It would be used take the cocaine overseas while attached to the bottom of a commercial containership, according to authorities.

Off the shore of Europe, the drone would be remotely released from the containership and picked up by a fishing boat controlled by Didani’s organization, officials said.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.