When commercial fisherman Thomas Breeding found 45 pounds of cocaine floating in the Gulf of Mexico last January, he says he knew the right thing was to turn it over to police. The Florida man instead opted to sell it, a decision that could land him in prison for life. Breeding—a 32-year-old boat captain with drug and weapons convictions, per the Panama City News Herald—says he hadn't "ever been involved in the drug trade before. I was just a hard-working, young commercial fisherman." But the package—worth $500,000 to $620,000 on the street, per AL.com—was apparently too tempting. In June, he gave the cocaine to four others, who sold the drug and paid Breeding a cut.
Authorities unraveled the scheme and charged all five with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Breeding, found with a gun in his vehicle, also was charged with unlawfully transporting a firearm. Like his co-defendants, Breeding pleaded guilty to the drug charge on Wednesday. He now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $4.25 million fine, and he's warning others not to follow his lead. "I would like to let the public know the dangers and what not to do if this situation comes about," says Breeding, who is to be sentenced Feb. 16. "This changed my life and way of thinking and also made me aware of some of the dangers that can be found off shore." (Cocaine was recently found in a Coke plant.)