APRIL 26 (MANHATTAN) - Brian R. Crowell, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Division of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that Jose Evaristo Linares Castillo was extradited from Colombia on charges that he conspired to import ton-quantities of cocaine into the United States, to provide material support to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the “Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia,” or “FARC”), and to engage in narco-terrorism. The FARC has been designated by the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Linares Castillo, a Colombian citizen, has been designated a Consolidated Priority Organization Target (“CPOT”) by the Department of Justice, a designation given to the most significant narcotics traffickers in the world. In February 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Linares Castillo as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker. Linares Castillo, who was arrested in May 2012, arrived in the Southern District of New York yesterday. He was presented and arraigned before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan this morning.
DEA Special-Agent-in-Charge Brian R. Crowell said: “As alleged, Linares-Castillo ran cocaine laden aircrafts from Colombia, through Venezuela, Honduras, and into Mexico for distribution onto American streets. He also allegedly collaborated with the FARC to secure safe passage of drugs through Colombia and Venezuela. I commend the members of the New York Strike Force, DEA Special Operations Division, DEA Bogota Country Office, the Government of the Republic of Colombia and the US Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs who succeeded in extraditing one of the most significant drug kingpins in the world responsible for the shipment of thousands of kilos of cocaine into the United States.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, Linares-Castillo was a drug kingpin of the first order who consorted with, and paid-off, known terrorists to ensure the safe passage of narcotics that were destined for the United States. His extradition to the Southern District where he will face American justice is the result of close international law enforcement cooperation and a significant victory in our unrelenting battle against alleged narco-terrorists.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment which was previously unsealed in Manhattan federal court:
Linares Castillo led a drug trafficking organization that distributed ton-quantities of cocaine obtained in Colombia. The cocaine was transported through the Apure region of Venezuela, flown to Honduras, and thereafter sent to the U.S. via Mexico. To facilitate the movement of its cocaine into and out of the FARC-controlled Apure region, Linares Castillo’s organization made regular payments to the FARC.
The Indictment charges Linares Castillo, 47, in three counts. Count One charges him with conspiracy to possess and to distribute cocaine on board an aircraft owned by a U.S. citizen or registered in the U.S.; to import cocaine into the United States; and to distribute cocaine knowing and intending that it be imported into the U.S. Count Two charges Linares Castillo with narco-terrorism conspiracy. Count Three charges him with material support conspiracy. Counts One and Two carry a maximum penalty of life in prison; Count Three carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA’s New York Division and Special Operations Division. He specifically thanked the DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force – which is comprised of agents and officers of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the New York State Police, the U. S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Marshal Service – as well as the DEA’s Bogota Country Office, the Government of the Republic of Colombia, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their ongoing assistance.
This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward Y. Kim, Michael D. Lockard, and Adam J. Fee are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.