MIAMI, FL. – Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division, Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and Jay Bergman, Andean Regional Director, Drug Enforcement Administration, in conjunction with Viviane Morales Hoyos, Attorney General of Colombia, Director Oscar Naranjo, Colombian National Police, Director Maritza Gonzalez, Colombian Judicial Police, Admiral Alvaro Echandia, Colombian Navy, and General Julio Alberto Gonzalez Ruiz, Colombian Air Force, announce the indictment of more than fifty (50) alleged leaders and associates of militarized Colombian narco-trafficking organizations, known as Bandas Criminales (BACRIMS), for their involvement in drug trafficking from South America to the United States using airplanes and submarines.
The BACRIMs are narco-trafficking organizations that seek to fill the power-void left by the fall of the Norte Valle Cartel and the dissolution of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). On February 11, 2011, U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer had announced the creation of the BACRIM prosecution unit within the Narcotics Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, specifically dedicated to dismantling emerging Bandas Criminales in Colombia. This is the first such unit in the United States specifically designed to target the emerging BACRIMs. Operation Under Sea and Operation Seven Trumpets are the most recent BACRIM prosecutions under this new initiative, resulting in charges against 56 defendants in six separate federal cases.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville stated, “These indictments are an excellent example of the results that the partnership between the United States and Colombian law enforcement can produce when combining efforts and resources. The Drug Enforcement Administration is committed to continuing these efforts and expects to see the downfall of BACRIMs, just as our past joint efforts eliminated other large scale Colombian-based drug trafficking organizations.”
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer stated, “Together with our law enforcement partners in Colombia, we have developed a proactive strategy to combat the rise of the BACRIM. Our common goal is simple: target the BACRIM leadership, dismantle their narco-trafficking operations, and eliminate the threat they pose to the security of the region and the international community.”
In Operation Under the Sea, twenty-two defendants were charged for their alleged participation in a drug trafficking organization that built and used fully submersible and semi-submersible submarines to transport cocaine from Colombia to Central America, with the ultimate destination being the United States. This indictment, returned on May 17, 2011, charges the following individuals with numerous drug trafficking offenses: Mauner Mahecha Marcelo , 32; Luis Alexander Mahecha Marcelo , 23; Alexander Hernandez Arrubla , 29; Octavio Amezquita Marcelo , 38; Romir Gustavo Gutierrez Guerrero , 42; Jairo Trejos , 32; Jaider Fabio Gomez Aristizabal , 40; Jose Stiven Berrio Zorrilla , 26; Fernando Pineda Jimenez , 30; Marco Antonio Lopez Loaiza , 52; Victor Mario Palacio Muñoz, 37; Jesus Ernesto Garcia Prieto , 48; Juan Carlos Vasquez Pachon , 39; Roberto Gilton Valencia Pinto , 42; Albin Rodrigo Arrollo Garcia , 43; Manuel Santiago Portocarrero , 45; Jack Jimenez , 35; Oscar Augusto Gutierrez Garcia , 43; Pedro Alejandro Pinilla Castro , 32; Agustin Campos Pardo , 44; Carlos Alfonso Almanza Sanchez , 28; and Rodrigo Tercero Royet Arias , 38.
In Operation Seven Trumpets, a total of thirty-four defendants were charged in five separate indictments for their participation in Colombian-based drug trafficking organizations that used airplanes to transport thousands of kilograms of cocaine from clandestine airstrips located in South America, to clandestine airstrips in Central America, mostly Honduras. The indictment alleges that the United States was the ultimate destination for the cocaine loads. According to the charges, the drug trafficking organizations used nominees to purchase U.S. registered planes. These nominees, in turn, submitted false documentation to the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to hide the true identity of the purchasers (members of the drug trafficking organization). Charged in separate cases in Operation Seven Trumpets are Fernando Bertulucci Castillo , 49; Alvaro Suarez Granados , 53; Sammy Echtaya Rios , 44; Alvaro Suarez Montanez , 25; Marco Castillo Bertrad , 53; Miguel Antonio Monroy Ramirez, 61; Oscar Humberto Sierra Pastrana , 48; Oscar Guillermo Sierra Ferro , 20; John Finkelstein Winer , 57; John Fredy Ruiz Garzon , 33; Enrique Moreno Serrano , 65; Carlos Antonio Ortega Bonilla , 61; Luis Felipe Guerreron ,58; Oscar Arbelaez Davila , 62; Norberto Castaneda Vargas , 45; Jose Hugo Salazar Buitrago , 55; Monica Liliana Franco Garcia , 37; Fabio Gracia Montes , 64; Jose Eduardo Suaza Vargas , 38; Alejandro Canal Duplat , 43; Cristina Eblin Guerra Moo , 54; Dorian Alejandro Menco Delgado , 33; Jorge Barragan Mejia , 55; Richard Alexander Dixon Figueroa , 41; Braulio Tarquino Blanco Davila , 34; Edgar Fernando Delgado Castro , 56; Jorge Enrique Arrauth Gonzalez , 51; Jaime Garcia Garcia , 61; Carmina Perdomo Barona , 54; Arturo Molano Rodriguez , 59; Jairo Alonso Reina Castillo , 60; Augusto Lozano Garcia , 43; Orlando Gomez Pinzon , 55; and Fernando Sandoval Vasquez , 58.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of up to 60 years in prison.
Mr. Trouville stressed that these investigations would not had been possible without the outstanding cooperation and assistance of the Colombian authorities, at all levels. Mr. Trouville commended the outstanding investigative efforts and cooperation between DEA and the Colombian National Police, the Colombian Judicial Police, the Colombian Fiscalia General, the Colombian Navy, the Colombian Air Force, and all other law enforcement officers from both countries that contributed to the successful execution of these operations.
An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.