Australian authorities battling to stem the huge flow of cocaine from South America appear to have scored another major victory with alleged California drug kingpin Owen "O-Dog" Hanson expected to plead guilty in a San Diego court.
Hanson, a muscle-bound playboy and former member of the champion University of Southern California gridiron team, was arrested at a golf course near San Diego on September 9, 2015, after a covert Australian and FBI operation.
The 34-year-old has been in custody in the US since.
Hanson repeatedly claimed he was innocent of drug trafficking, illegal gambling and money laundering charges, but in a surprise move his lawyer Mark Adams requested a change of plea hearing.
The hearing is scheduled for January 10 in the District Court in San Diego.
Prosecutors told previous proceedings they had amassed a huge amount of evidence against Hanson and his co-accused.
"To date, the United States has produced one hard-drive containing approximately 268 gigabytes of data, including audio and electronic intercepts from wiretaps on multiple lines, the results of search warrants executed on eight email accounts, more than 200 surveillance photographs and videos, approximately 60 audio and video recordings of FBI undercover and source meetings with the defendants and thousands of documents received in response to more 221 subpoenas," assistant US attorney Andrew Young wrote in a recent court filing.
Australian authorities were the first to announce their case against Hanson, who allegedly boasted he could sell a kilogram of cocaine in Australia for US$175,000 compared to US$20,000 in Los Angeles.
But, it appears they will have to wait for Hanson's US charges to be resolved before he can be extradited to Australia.
The FBI and US federal prosecutors allege Hanson was the head of ODOG, an enterprise that used violence and threats while engaging in international and domestic drug trafficking, illegal sports gambling and international money laundering.
Young alleged Hanson had trafficked "well over a tonne of cocaine".
The Australian-US investigation, which began with the discovery in a Sydney hotel room in 2011 of a suitcase containing A$702,000 cash, eventually led to Hanson and ODOG.
On September 11, 2015, New South Wales Police announced Hanson had been arrested in California and four men, including Australian music promoter Andrew McManus, had been arrested in Australia.
McManus entered a guilty plea in Sydney in August to perverting the course of justice.
US prosecutors and the FBI revealed their case against Hanson on January 27 last year. A grand jury in California had charged Hanson and 21 other people, including former San Francisco 49ers running back Derek Loville, with participating in an international narcotics trafficking and illegal gambling ring.
It is alleged Hanson arranged for a DVD depicting beheadings and a photo of a family gravestone be splashed with red paint to scare professional gambler Robert Cipriani into paying a US$2 million debt.