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News Release
August 11, 2005

Caribbean Initiative LogoCPOT Target Pleads Guilty
to Conspiracy to Import Cocaine

AUG 11-- Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Miami Field Division and R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida (SDFL), announced that Elias Cobos-Munoz pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, in violation of Title 21, USC Sections 963 and 952(a).

Photo of Cobos-MunozCobos-Munoz (Left) was designated a Consolidated Priority Target (CPOT) by the U.S. Department of Justice in October 2003. During the plea, Cobos-Munoz admitted to having supervised the transportation of cocaine loads, to having invested money in the cocaine loads and to having acted as a liaison between drug organization members in the United States, Colombia, Jamaica and the Bahamas between July 2000 and June 2004. Cobos-Munoz also admitted that he was involved in the attempted importation of 1,032 kilograms of cocaine, into south Florida, in January 2002 (see photos below). This shipment was successfully intercepted by DEA agents and other law enforcement entities.

The charges against Cobos-Munoz were the result of a long-term Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, entitled Operation Busted Manatee. Operation Busted Manatee was a joint effort of the DEA Miami Field Division, DEA Nassau, Ottawa and Kingston Country Offices and DEA Cartagena Resident Office, with assistance from the Florida Highway Patrol, the South Florida Money Laundering Strike Force, the Colombian National Police, the Royal Bahamas Police Force Drug Enforcement Unit, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Panama Judicial Police and prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Money Laundering Section. Operation Busted Manatee was part of DEA's Caribbean Initiative, which targeted South American drug organizations that used the Caribbean corridor to ship drugs into the United States, Canada and other countries. To date, this OCDETF investigation has seized more than 6,000 kilograms of cocaine in the United States, Colombia and the Bahamas, resulting in at least seven other related indictments in the SDFL.

According to court records, the Cobos-Munoz drug trafficking organization was one of the largest cocaine distribution networks operating out of Colombia, Jamaica, Panama and the Bahamas. The organization used maritime and air assets, to traffic cocaine into the United States, from transshipment points throughout the Caribbean to smuggle thousands of kilograms of cocaine into south Florida since 2000. Cobos-Munoz is scheduled to be sentenced in October 2005. He faces a minimum mandatory term of ten years' imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment, plus a fine of $4,000,000.

"This investigation and arrest had a significant impact on the amount of drugs entering the United States through the Caribbean. Today's guilty plea is a tribute to the efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Attorney's Office, and our international partners, particularly the Bahamian, Jamaican and Colombian authorities," said Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Miami Field Division.

U.S. Attorney Acosta stated, "This case successfully disrupted the organization and operation of a large and powerful drug trafficking network. Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated law enforcement agents our streets are safer for our children. Stopping the flow of narcotics into our shores remains one of our highest priorities." Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the DEA for their work in this case.

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