Department of Justice SealDepartment of Justice
Friday, December 12, 2008
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Norte Valle Cartel Leader Extradited to Face Charges in the United States

WASHINGTON – Diego Montoya-Sanchez, a/k/a Don Diego, a former FBI top-ten most wanted fugitive and principal leader of the Norte Valle Cartel (NVC), has been extradited from Colombia to the United States to face federal charges, the Department of Justice announced today. Montoya-Sanchez faces drug-trafficking related charges in the Southern District of Florida and the District of Columbia.

Montoya-Sanchez arrived in Miami today and will make his initial appearance on Dec. 15, 2008, in the Southern District of Florida. Montoya-Sanchez was charged in a fifth superseding indictment in the Southern District of Florida with cocaine trafficking, obstruction of justice, witness retaliation by murder, and money laundering.

The defendant also is charged, along with eight other NVC leaders, in a superseding indictment returned in the District of Columbia on drug trafficking and racketeering charges related to the transportation of multi-ton loads of cocaine from South America through Colombia for ultimate delivery in the United States.

"The extradition of Montoya-Sanchez is one more courageous act by the government of Colombia, working in partnership with the United States, to bring leaders of international drug trafficking organizations to justice," said Deputy Attorney General Mark R. Filip. "Now, Montoya-Sanchez will be held accountable in U.S. court for his alleged role in shipping multiple tons of cocaine into the United States."

"When it comes to fugitives, we never give up the hunt as no criminal should be able to escape from justice," said J. Stephen Tidwell, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.  "We appreciate the cooperation and assistance of the Colombian authorities to help bring fugitives, such as Montoya-Sanchez, to justice."

"As a leader of Colombia’s Norte Valle Cartel, Diego Montoya-Sanchez was one of the most powerful and violent cocaine traffickers in the world," said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. "Thanks to the collaborative efforts with our Colombian partners, this drug kingpin will no longer terrorize innocent citizens and profit from the sale of his drugs on American soil."

The NVC, Colombia’s most powerful cartel, operated principally in the Norte Valle del Cauca region of Colombia and is allegedly responsible for exporting more than 500 metric tons of cocaine worth more than $10 billion from Colombia to the United States for resale. 

The defendant was placed on the FBI’s top-ten list on May 6, 2004. He was captured by Colombian authorities on Sept. 10, 2007, in a rural area outside of Zarzal, Valle del Cauca, Colombia – the result of a multi-year search by Colombian authorities.

An indictment is a formal charging document notifying the defendant of the charges against him. All persons charged via an indictment are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Montoya-Sanchez will first face the charges in the Southern District of Florida. Upon conclusion of that case, he will face the charges in the District of Columbia. The charges in the District of Columbia will be prosecuted by attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York and trial attorneys with the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS). Cooperation and support for the District of Columbia case also were provided by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Eastern District of New York and the Southern District of Florida. The charges in the Southern District of Florida will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the FBI and the DEA. The extradition of Montoya-Sanchez resulted from the cooperative efforts of the government of Colombia and the Criminal Division’s NDDS and Office of International Affairs.