News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 20, 2009
DEA PUBLIC AFFAIRS (202) 307-7977 

Associates of Colombian Terrorist Organization Charged with Conspiracy to Import Ton-Quantities of Cocaine

MAR 20 -- MANHATTAN, NY - JOHN P. GILBRIDE, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Field Division (“DEA”) and LEV L. DASSIN, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the arrests yesterday of JOSE JOAQUIN MONTES-OVALLES and MARIA LILIAN CASTELLANOS-POVEDA, cocaine brokers for the 10th Front of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia ("FARC"), Colombia's main left-wing terrorist group, on charges of conspiring to import ton-quantities of cocaine into the United States.

DEA Special Agent-In-Charge JOHN P. GILBRIDE stated: "These arrests demonstrate the commitment of international law enforcement to dismantle drug trafficking organizations and end their reign of terror in their home countries and the terrible destruction of their drug distribution in the United States. Along with our Colombian law enforcement partners we have once again arrested two narco-terrorists who have conspired to inundate the United States with narcotics. Today, they have been arrested and they face the consequences of their illegal activity."

MONTES-OVALLES and CASTELLANOS-POVEDA were arrested yesterday in Colombia during an operation staged by the Colombian Army, with the support of the investigative unit, Cuerpo Technico de Investigaciones ("CTI"), of the Colombian National Prosecutor's Office ("Fiscalia"). The Colombian authorities were acting on a request by the United States Embassy in Bogotá for the provisional arrest of the defendants for the purpose of extradition.

According to the Indictment unsealed yesterday in Manhattan federal court:

The FARC is a terrorist group dedicated to the violent overthrow of Colombia's democratically-elected government. It consists of approximately 10,000 armed guerillas organized into 77 "fronts" and four urban militias. The FARC has also evolved into the world's largest supplier of cocaine. The FARC's 10th Front is responsible for attempting to obtain control, by military force, over the Arauca Department of Colombia, an area bordering Venezuela. To support its terrorist activities, the FARC's 10th Front supplies and arranges cocaine shipments from airstrips in Venezuela and the Colombian border with Venezuela.

Beginning in April 2006, MONTES-OVALLES and CASTELLANOS-POVEDA, who were cocaine brokers for the FARC's 10th Front, met with DEA undercover agents, posing as representatives of the Mexican Juarez Cartel, to plan a shipment of one ton of cocaine from airstrips in Venezuela. During negotiations MONTES-OVALLES specifically confirmed that they were representing the FARC and that the FARC would provide security for Juarez Cartel operatives in Colombia.

Acting United States Attorney LEV L. DASSIN stated: "This case represents another step in the ongoing effort to thwart a designated terrorist organization from financing its operations through narcotics trafficking. We are grateful to our partners at the DEA and our counterparts in the Colombian government for their extraordinary work on this case."

Mr. DASSIN specifically thanked the DEA's New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force and the Narco-Terrorism Group of the DEA's Bogotá Country Office for their work in investigating the case, and also thanked the CTI, Fiscalia, and the Colombian Army for their assistance.

The New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force is comprised of agents and officers of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York City Police Department, the United States Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Department of Homeland Security United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the New York State Police.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office's International Narcotics Trafficking Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys JEFFREY A. BROWN and REBECCA M. RICIGLIANO are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.