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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
January 16, 2004

DEA Disrupts Colombian Drug Ring

Criminals Smuggled Heroin into East Coast Cities

photo - heroin filled balloons
One hundred heroin-filled balloons that were swallowed and transported internally by drug couriers.

JAN 15- DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy together with United States Attorney Christopher Christie of the District of New Jersey, United States Attorney David N. Kelley of the Southern District of New York and United States Attorney Marcos Daniel Jimenez of the Southern District of Florida, today announced the disruption of a major Cali, Colombia-based heroin trafficking organization. Dubbed "Operation Streamline," the investigation targeted the Orlando Ospina trafficking organization that smuggled more than 990 pounds of high grade (75%-80% pure) heroin a year into Miami, FL for distribution to New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and Newark, NJ.

During the last two days, law enforcement officers in Colombia and the United States executed 11 search warrants and 11 arrest warrants resulting in the seizure of 1.7 pounds of heroin. Eight of those arrested in Colombia will be extradited to face U.S. prosecution. Before today's enforcement action, authorities had arrested 17 individuals and seized 108 pounds of heroin in connection with this operation.

Operation Streamline began in Miami, Florida in early 2002 and expanded to the following major cities: Charlotte, NC, Newark, NJ, New York, NY, and Philadelphia, PA, and the following South American countries: Argentina, Colombia and Nicaragua. The original targets, Orlando and Carlos Ospina, were arrested by DEA in Florida during May, 2003.

photo - cardboard box
Part of a corrugated cardboard box that was used to smuggle straws filled with heroin. The traffickers wedged the straws into the spaces inside the corrugated cardboard to conceal them inside the walls of the boxes.

"Drug trafficking reaches across international boundaries and jurisdictions. Law enforcement must do the same. The success of this multi-national, multi-jurisdictional investigation exemplifies the cooperation between law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and the governments of Colombia and Argentina," said Ms. Tandy.

"As drug cartels are forced to be more creative in their methods of smuggling drugs and cash, the DEA's techniques at catching them are too," U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie said. "The cartels are feeling more and more isolated in their ability to export, particularly when we have the assistance of governments of those export countries like Colombia combined with U.S. detection and intelligence techniques," stated United States Attorney Christie.

"This indictment is yet another step forward in combating the significant problem of narcotics trafficking in the United States. This effort has resulted in the seizure of multi-kilogram quantities of heroin and the prosecution of eleven individuals for their participation in a large-scale heroin operation. We will continue to prosecute such violators vigorously, focusing especially on organizers and other major narco-trafficking targets no matter where they are," stated United States Attorney Jimenez.

The traffickers used both traditional and non-traditional smuggling routes and methods. For example, they smuggled approximately 220 pounds of heroin over three months from Cali, Colombia, to Nicaragua, by secreting the drugs in drinking straws and placing them in boxes of seafood. From Nicaragua, the drugs were shipped to a seafood company in Miami, FL, where they were received by the Miami cell headed by Orlando Ospina, and transported to New York City for distribution. The organization also used internal body couriers to transport drugs from Cali and Bogotá, Colombia; and Buenos Aires, Argentina to major east coast cities.

The traffickers also used traditional and non-traditional methods to transport their narcotics proceeds from the United States back to Colombia. In the non-traditional method, $100 bills were rolled into a cylinder shape, pressed and then swallowed by couriers. Most of the couriers were able to swallow 1,000 bills and thus could smuggle $100,000 per trip. The organization also operated a check-cashing business in Cali, Colombia that could launder approximately $25,000 a day in proceeds. Additionally, the organization used Western Union wire transfers to send drug proceeds in $1,000 increments from the United States to Colombia.

photo - heroin filled straws
Bundles of drinking straws with heroin hidden inside them. The heroin was seized during Operation Streamline.

This two-year Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation was coordinated by DEA's Special Operations Division (SOD), a joint law enforcement program which is comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, IRS and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as attorneys from the Department of Justice's Criminal Division. It would not have been accomplished without the steadfast and tireless efforts of the following foreign and domestic law enforcement and prosecutors' offices:

Federal, State and Local Partners

- Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
- U.S. Attorney's Office - Southern District of Florida
- U.S. Attorney's Office - District of New Jersey
- U.S. Attorney's Office - Southern District of New York
- U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- U.S. Department of Justice - Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section
- Newark Police Department
- New Brunswick, NJ Police Department
- Mercer County Prosecutors Office
- Middlesex County Prosecutors Office
- Essex County Sheriff's Department, Bureau of Narcotics
- Bayonne, NJ Police Department
- New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice
- New York City Police Department
- New York State Police
- North Carolina State Police

International Law Enforcement Partners

- Colombian National Police/DIJIN
- Gendarmeria Nacional Argentina

For additional information please contact DEA - Public Affairs at 202-307-7977.

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