MARY JO WHITE, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and LEWIS RICE, JR., Special Agent In Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration New York Field Division, announced today that the Government of the United States formally requested the extradition of ALBERTO ORLANDEZ-GAMBOA from the Republic of Colombia. ORLANDEZ-GAMBOA was arrested in prison yesterday on a provisional arrest warrant by police authorities in the Republic of Colombia, based on an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court.
If extradited, ORLANDEZ-GAMBOA will be the first Colombian national extradited from the Republic of Colombia to the United States since the Colombian Congress eliminated that country's ban on extradition in December 1997.
The superseding indictment filed today charges ORLANDEZ-GAMBOA with conspiring to import and distribute thousands of kilograms of cocaine from the Republic of Colombia to New York City and other destinations in the United States, and with conspiring to launder millions of dollars in cocaine trafficking proceeds.
ORLANDEZ-GAMBOA, aka "Caracol," age 43, has been in jail in the Republic of Colombia since his June 1998 arrest on charges of murder, kidnapping and illicit enrichment. Yesterday, ORLANDEZ-GAMBOA was notified in prison by the Policia Nacional de Colombia ("CNP") of his provisional arrest pursuant to a request by the Government of the United States.
According to the indictment, ORLANDEZ-GAMBOA headed an international drug trafficking and money laundering organization known as the "Caracol Organization." The Caracol Organization, headquartered on Colombia's North Coast in Barranquilla, allegedly imported large shipments of cocaine from Colombia to various locations throughout Central America, North America, and Europe. United States destinations where cocaine was imported and seized by law enforcement authorities include New York City, Miami, and Philadelphia, according to the charges.
Although imprisoned in the Republic of Colombia since June 1998, ORLANDEZ-GAMBOA is alleged to have continued to direct the activities of the Caracol Organization even while in prison, including directing the importation of approximately 850 kilograms of cocaine to New York City and Puerto Rico from the Republic of Colombia in early 1998. According to the indictment, ORLANDEZ-GAMBOA ran the Caracol Organization and maintained his leadership position in that organization by directing others to commit bribery and acts of violence, including carrying out kidnappings and assassinations of rival drug dealers.
The Caracol Organization shipped cocaine to the United States in a variety of ways, including through commercial cargo ships, speed boats, commercial and private aircraft, and parcel delivery services, according to the indictment. The Caracol Organization allegedly concealed the cocaine it imported in some cases by shipping and packaging the cocaine in boxes containing sawdust, mustard, and cough medicine to suppress the odor of the drugs. In other instances, the cocaine, was shipped in crates containing Mazola corn oil and engine parts, cement, crates appearing to contain bananas and other fruit, sealed cans and suitcases, and packaged inside ceramic tiles.
According to the indictment, the Caracol Organization also laundered millions of dollars in narcotics proceeds. Under ORLANDEZ-GAMBOA's leadership, it is alleged that members of the Caracol Organization wired money representing drug proceeds to various bank accounts around the world, purchased assets including property, businesses, and merchandise around the world, exchanged cash on the black market in the Republic of Colombia, and converted large quantities of cash into smaller denomination money orders, thereby facilitating the concealment and distribution of those proceeds and avoiding United States currency reporting requirements. In December 1998, from his prison cell in the Republic of Colombia, ORLANDEZ-GAMBOA directed the delivery of approximately $1.5 Million from the United States to the Republic of Colombia.
Ms. WHITE praised the efforts of the DEA New York Field Division, Barranquilla Country Office and the organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. She also expressed her appreciation to the authorities in the Republic of Colombia, and in particular the Colombian National Police (Policia Nacional de Colombia) and the Colombian Prosecutor General's office (the Fiscalia General de la Nacion), for their invaluable assistance both in the investigation and the extradition efforts to date.
Mr. RICE stated- "The importance of this case cannot be overstated. As the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration told Congress five months ago, Gamboa is the most powerful and ruthless of the Colombian North Coast drug traffickers. The cooperation between the U.S, Department of Justice, the Colombian Prosecutor General's Office, and the investigating agencies in this case represents a milestone in our continued resolve to bring to justice even the most notorious narcotics traffickers. The initiation of extradition proceedings against Gamboa is just the first step in bringing him personally to justice. All cocaine traffickers operating in Colombia, however, should take note and view this case as an example of our united drug fighting efforts and determination."
Assistant United States Attorneys DAVID FINN and MARK MENDELSOHN are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.