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NEW YORK NEWS

June 27, 2014
Contact: Public Information Officer
Number: 212-337-2906

International Narcotics Trafficker Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 54 Years in Prison for the Manufacture, Shipment, and Importation of Tons of Cocaine into the United States and Other Countries

JUN 27 (NEW YORK) - Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and James J. Hunt, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the New York Division, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced that Yesid Rios Suarez was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 54 years in prison for his role in overseeing the manufacture of tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine in clandestine laboratories in Colombia, and the distribution and importation of tons of cocaine to the United States and other countries.  Rios Suarez, a citizen of Colombia, pled guilty in February 2014.  He was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Yesid Rios Suarez was a leader of a conspiracy to bring into the United States, tons of Colombian cocaine.  He used violence to further his aims; including ordering murders, and will now pay for his crimes with a lengthy prison term.”

According to documents filed in this case, statements made at related court proceedings, and witness testimony at a two-day evidentiary hearing in May 2014:

Between 1992 and his arrest in Venezuela in 2011, Rios Suarez, along with his co-conspirators, oversaw the manufacture of thousands of kilograms of cocaine in clandestine laboratories that they operated in the Arauca department of Colombia and other areas of Colombia near the Venezuelan border.  During that time, Rios Suarez and his co-conspirators also oversaw the distribution of thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela to the United States and other countries through various intermediate shipping points.  Specifically, once the cocaine had been manufactured in laboratories in Colombia, Rios Suarez worked with others to launch planes carrying multi-hundred-kilogram loads of cocaine from clandestine landing strips operated by Rios Suarez and his co-conspirators in Colombia and Venezuela. 

Throughout this time, Rios Suarez also directed others to carry weapons and to use violence in furtherance of the charged narcotics conspiracy.  On one occasion, Rios Suarez caused those working at his direction to murder two men in order to maintain the secrecy of Rios Suarez’s narcotics trafficking operation.  During the course of the narcotics conspiracy, Rios Suarez also oversaw the planning and preparation for an attack on an oil pipeline located in Colombia, which attack was intended to divert the Colombian military’s attention from Rios Suarez’s narcotics trafficking activities being carried out in the same region.  The planned attack – which was ultimately foiled by Colombian authorities – involved dropping explosives from an airplane onto an oil pipeline.  

All told, prior to his arrest in 2011, Rios Suarez worked for nearly two decades overseeing critical steps in the manufacture, distribution, and importation into the United States and other countries of thousands of kilograms of cocaine, and causing others to engage in violence in furtherance of his narcotics trafficking operation.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Forrest ordered Rios Suarez, 46, to pay a $1 million fine and a $100 special assessment. 

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the DEA’s Bogota Country Office and the DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force; the Government of the Republic of Colombia; and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.  The DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force is comprised of agents and officers of the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York City Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the New York State Police, the U. S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, New York National Guard, Office of Foreign Assets Control and the New York Department of Taxation and Finance.

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Adam Fee and Sean S. Buckley are in charge of the prosecution.

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