U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Texas
Eastern District of Texas
For Immediate Release
August 27, 2013
John M. Bales, United States Attorney
Contact: Davilyn Walston
Public Information Officer
Direct: (409) 981-7902
Cell: (409) 553-9881
Seventeen Colombians Indicted in Eastern District of Texas Drug Conspiracy
PLANO, Texas — U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced today that 17 alleged members of a Colombian drug trafficking organization have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Texas.
The indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury on Feb. 27, 2013, and unsealed on Aug. 5, 2013, charges the 17 defendants with drug trafficking crimes, including conspiracy to possess with intent to manufacture and distribute cocaine, conspiracy to import cocaine and to manufacture and distribute cocaine knowing it will be unlawfully imported into the United States, and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. According to the indictment, the defendants are alleged to be members of a drug trafficking organization responsible for sending cocaine from Colombia and Mexico to the United States.
The Colombian National Police (CNP) began executing arrest warrants on Aug. 23, 2013 in Colombia. Of the 17 defendants, 10 are now safely in custody. If convicted, they face up to life in federal prison.
"Four years ago, we purposed to look differently at the drug prosecutions in our office and to better use our time and resources by working smarter with what we hope will result in maximum results," said U.S. Attorney Bales. "The obvious step was to look at the root of the drug crime problem. Invariably, the leads always came back to Mexico and to Colombia. Happily, we have discovered extraordinary partnerships with the Colombian National Police who are outstanding and very brave law enforcement officers. This investigation is the second significant case where we have utilized American laws to address criminality in Colombia that is affecting the United States. Late last year, our prosecutors completed the successful prosecution of 25 Colombian nationals who had conspired to import cocaine into the United States. These cases are challenging, but essential if we are to effectively enforce the drug laws of the United States. I commend the extraordinary work of the many agents and officers, both here in Texas and in Colombia, who are working on this case and we look forward to the extradition of the arrested defendants."
"The DEA’s commitment to ensure the safety of our citizens is a global effort," said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Daniel R. Salter of the Dallas Field Division. "This investigation is a perfect example of the DEA’s outstanding partnership with the Government of Colombia and the Colombia National Police. The DEA’s resolve remains steadfast and we will continue to pursue and bring to justice those that are determined to bring illicit drugs into our great nation."
This case is the result of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) joint investigation. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
The case is being investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Enforcement Group 1, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, HSI–ICE, and the Colombian National Police. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ernest Gonzalez. Provisional arrest warrants, the legal instruments which triggered the enforcement actions and arrests in Colombia, were prepared with the assistance of the DOJ Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs in Washington D.C.
An indictment is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.