Senior FARC Commander Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Distribute Massive Quantities of Cocaine for Importation into the United States
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Martin Leonel Perez Castro, also known as “Richard,” pleaded guilty today in federal court in Brooklyn to conspiracy to distribute cocaine internationally, intending and knowing that the cocaine would be illegally imported into the United States. The proceeding was held before United States District Judge Brian M. Cogan. Perez Castro, the commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) 30th Front, a group that operated in southwestern Colombia, was extradited to the Eastern District of New York in June 2022. When sentenced, he faces up to life in prison.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Anne Milgram, Administrator, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and Thomas M. Fattorusso, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, New York Field Office, announced the guilty plea.
“The defendant was a senior FARC leader who financed the group’s violence and terrorism through the production and distribution of thousands of kilograms of cocaine on a global scale,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Today’s guilty plea is a powerful reminder to drug trafficking organizations all over the world that this Office and our law enforcement partners will bring them to justice for the harm and misery they have caused in the United States and elsewhere.”
Mr. Peace extended his appreciation to the DEA’s office in Bogota, Colombia, the United States Department of State, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS) Judicial Attaché Office in Bogotá, Colombia, the Colombian National Police, and the Government of Colombia.
“As a senior FARC leader, Perez Castro used violence, power and notoriety to import tons of cocaine from Colombia into New York City,” stated DEA Administrator Milgram. “Today's guilty plea reflects DEA’s unwavering commitment to hold all drug traffickers accountable and should send a clear message to drug networks across the globe that we will investigate and dismantle organizations that threaten the safety and health of the American people.”
“This FARC senior official maintained a revenue stream that used extortion and direct sales to cocaine dealers to fund the para-military group. In his position, Perez Castro is responsible for distributing thousands of kilos of cocaine in and around the United States. Today’s guilty plea is the result of the great investigative work of DEA and IRS-CI Special Agents and incredible law enforcement partnerships globally,” stated IRS-CI New York Special Agent-in-Charge Fattorusso.
As set forth in the indictment, court filings, and statements made in Court, the FARC’s 30th Front, led by Perez Castro, generated revenue by directly selling cocaine to drug traffickers or extorting payments from traffickers operating in the 30th Front’s territory. The cocaine trafficked by the 30th Front was later smuggled into the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. The 30th Front also attacked rival drug trafficking groups or Colombian government forces to protect or expand FARC territory. As part of his plea, Perez Castro will take responsibility for the distribution of more than 75,000 kilograms of cocaine.
The FARC was founded in 1964 as a left-wing paramilitary group dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Government of Colombia. Over decades of conflict, the FARC attacked Colombian government forces and used targeted killings, kidnapping, and other terrorist tactics to achieve its ends. In October 1997, the U.S. Secretary of State designated the FARC as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), pursuant to Title 8, United States Code, Section 1189. After the Government of Colombia and the FARC entered into a peace accord in 2016, the FARC formally dissolved. On November 30, 2021, the U.S. Secretary of State revoked the designation of the FARC as an FTO. The defendant’s conduct occurred prior to the 2016 peace accord.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew D. Wang, Adam Amir, and Miranda Gonzalez are in charge of the prosecution.
MARTIN LEONEL PEREZ CASTRO