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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
May 6, 2004

Contact: Elizabeth Jordan
Drug Enforcement Administration
(212) 337-2906

Indictments Charging Leaders of the Norte Valle
Colombian Drug Cartel Unsealed

MAY 6 - ANTHONY P. PLACIDO, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York and ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced today the unsealing of two indictments in New York charging LUIS HERNANDO GOMEZ BUSTAMANTE, ARCANGEL DE JESUS HENOA MONTOYA and WILMER VARELA, leaders of the notorious Norte Valle Cartel (the “NVC”) in Colombia, with drug trafficking and money laundering. Earlier today, Attorney General JOHN ASHCROFT announced the filing of a national indictment in Washington, D.C., identifying the NVC as a racketeering enterprise and charging nine defendants, including BUSTAMANTE, HENAO MONTOYA and VARELA, with violations of the RICO statute.

ANTHONY P. PLACIDO, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent-in-Charge, stated, “The indictments today demonstrate the powerful reach of federal, state and local law enforcement beyond national borders. Through the sharing of intelligence both domestically and internationally the DEA continues with its law enforcement partners in this investigation to ultimately decimate this drug trafficking organization at its highest level.”

The New York indictment targets the massive influx of drugs to the United States, and, in particular, the New York metropolitan area. The national RICO indictment, in which the Eastern District of New York is a participant, targets the corruption and violence originating in Colombia that permitted the flow of these drugs into the United States. Together, the Department of Justice and the United States Attorneys’ Offices in Brooklyn, Miami and Manhattan are bringing all of their resources and efforts to bear on disrupting the flow of narcotics into the United States.

The first New York indictment charges BUSTAMANTE with operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise in connection with his role as one of the leaders of the NVC, a violent international cocaine organization headquartered in the Northern Valle del Cauca region, near Colombia’s west coast. This indictment also charges co- defendant HENAO MONTOYA with drug trafficking and money laundering. The charges against HENAO MONTOYA were unsealed on January 14, 2004 after he was expelled from Panama to the United States. The second New York indictment, also unsealed today, charges VARELA, a leader of the NVC responsible for the cartel’s security and enforcement, with drug trafficking. BUSTAMANTE and VARELA are fugitives in Colombia.

The two New York indictments are the product of a long term investigation conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (“EDNY”), United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) New York and Bogota offices, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) New York, Miami, Panama and Bogota offices.

As described in the indictments, the NVC is Colombia’s largest and most feared narcotics organization. Between 1990 and the present, the NVC was responsible for the exportation into the United States of more than 1.2 million pounds of cocaine with a wholesale value exceeding $10 billion. The NVC currently is responsible for the exportation of between 30% and 50% of the cocaine that enters the United States. The cartel uses violence and brutality to further its goals; cartel members and associates routinely murder individuals who fail to pay for drugs or whose loyalty is suspect.

In the mid-1990s, the El Dorado Task Force, an ICE/IRS Task Force dedicated to investigating drug money laundering, commenced an investigation into storefront money remitter businesses in Queens, New York. Three of those businesses were owned by Juan Alberto Monsalve, who was the cartel’s principal drug distributor in the New York area and was directly responsible for distributing thousands of kilos of cocaine in the New York metropolitan area, laundering more than $70 million of drug proceeds, and ordering multiple homicides. Monsalve pled guilty to drug trafficking and murder, and on May 3, 2002 was sentenced by the Honorable Joanna Seybert to a term of life imprisonment. The investigation of Monsalve and related cases revealed the structure of the NVC and directly led to the charges announced today in New York.

If convicted, BUSTAMANTE and HENAO MONTOYA face a maximum sentence of life in prison. If convicted, VARELA faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys
Bonnie S. Klapper, Carolyn Pokorny, Wayne L. Baker, Scott Klugman and Richard Lunger.

The Defendants
DOB: 10/7/54
Residence: Incarcerated

DOB: 3/14/58
Residence: Cartago, Colombia

DOB: 11/6/57
Residence: Cartago, Colombia


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