News Release
September 4, 2008
Erin Mulvey
Public Information Officer
212 337-2906

Leader of Colombian Heroin Importation Ring
Extradited to United States from Colombia

SEP 4 -- (Manhattan, NY) JOHN P. GILBRIDE, the Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Field Division, MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for theSouthern District of New York and PETER J. SMITH, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) announced the extradition from Colombia of JAIME GAMEZ, the leader of an international heroin importation ring that smuggled kilogram quantities of heroin into the United States between 1997 and 2000. GAMEZ, 43, who arrived in New York Tuesday evening, was arraigned yesterday evening in Manhattan federal court and ordered detained. According to the Indictment unsealed yesterday and other documents filed in the case:

GAMEZ organized and led a heroin trafficking organization of more than a dozen members, which imported heroin into the New York metropolitan area from countries including Ecuador, Chile, and Panama. GAMEZ recruited couriers, typically from the United States, to travel to Central and South American countries to transport heroin on commercial airline flights into the United States. Often, the heroin was sewn into the lining of clothing, blankets or bath mats, or into the soles of shoes, or hidden in other containers such as aerosol cans. GAMEZ employed others to provide assistance to the couriers on the ground, such as supplying airline tickets and expense money, transmitting logistical instructions from GAMEZ, collecting the heroin upon arrival, and paying the couriers. As part of this investigation, at least thirteen members of GAMEZ’s heroin organization have been charged, convicted and sentenced to prison terms.

GAMEZ is charged with one count of conspiracy to import narcotics and one count of narcotics trafficking conspiracy. If convicted, GAMEZ faces a maximum sentence on each count of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. However, pursuant to agreement, the United States has provided assurances to Colombia that GAMEZ will not be required to serve a life sentence. GAMEZ’s case is assigned to United States District Judge ROBERT P. PATTERSON. GAMEZ was arraigned yesterday evening by United States Magistrate Judge JAMES C. FRANCIS IV, and ordered detained.

Mr. GARCIA praised the investigative work of the DEA, Group D-24 and ICE. Mr. GARCIA thanked the United States Department of Justice Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs for their involvement in the extradition process.

Assistant United States Attorneys DAVID SIEGAL and MARK LANPHER are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in these Indictment are merely accusations, and GAMEZ is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.