News Release
January 5, 2007
Contact: Joanna Zoltay
Number: 312-886-2597

Colombian Nationals Extradited to Chicago on Drug Conspiracy Charges

JAN 5 -- (Chicago, IL) -- On January 4, 2007, three Colombian Nationals were arraigned in the Northern District of Illinois after being extradited from Colombia to Chicago. Saulo Salinas, Johnny Salinas, Juan Alberto Castillo-Ortiz, are all being held without bond. A fourth defendant, Oscar Palacios, is expected to be extradited within the next thirty days. All four defendants were part of a long term investigation that began in Chicago and extended to Boston, New York, Orlando and Bogotá, Colombia.

“These extraditions are significant in that they are the first since the 1997 treaty with Colombia to occur in the Northern District of Illinois,” stated Gary G. Olenkiewicz, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Chicago Field Division. “And it was possible due to the cooperative efforts between the DEA, United States Attorney’s Office and the Colombian National Police. It’s a good day when drug law enforcement is able to dismantle a drug trafficking organization like this and keep heroin and cocaine off the streets of Chicago.”

The investigation began as an undercover operation in Chicago in November of 2004, which led DEA agents to information that heroin was being smuggled into the United States by packing it in the soles of shoes. The investigation uncovered the drug distribution network in Boston, New York and Orlando, where heroin was concealed in artwork. In June, 2005, a grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois (NDIL) indicted Saulo Salinas, Johnny Salinas, Juan Salinas, Oscar Palacios and Juan Alberto Castillo-Ortiz for conspiracy to import and the attempt to possess with intent to distribute heroin. Arrest warrants were issued out of the NDIL and forwarded to the American Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia. In Colombia the warrants were executed by agents assigned to the Bogotá DEA office and the Colombian National Police. To date, over 80 kilograms of heroin, 39 kilograms of cocaine, $1.4 million in U.S. currency have been seized, and 78 people arrested.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney John Blakey of the Northern District of Illinois.