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Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Extradition of a Leader of a Colombian Drug Trafficking Organization and Three Other International Narcotics Traffickers
Two defendants charged with cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking extradited from Mexico; two defendants charged with cocaine trafficking extradited from Colombia

OCT 21 (MANHATTAN, N.Y.)  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 the extraditions of four defendants charged with international narcotics trafficking offenses: Ericson Vargas Cardona, extradited from Colombia on charges of conspiring to traffic in cocaine and using weapons, including machine guns, assault rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades, in furtherance of the cocaine trafficking conspiracy; Diego Vallejo-Reyes, extradited from Colombia on charges of conspiring to traffic in cocaine; and Ricardo Quintero and Jesus Dominguez Gallardo, extradited from Mexico on charges of conspiring to traffic in methamphetamine and cocaine.  Vargas Cardona and Vallejo-Reyes both arrived in the Southern District of New York on October 16, 2013 and were separately presented and arraigned before Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn on October 17, 2013. Quintero and Dominguez Gallardo arrived in the Southern District of New York on October 11, 2013 and were presented and arraigned before Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein on October 12, 2013 and ordered detained.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian R. Crowell said: “These defendants are now on American soil to face justice for their roles in sending tons of narcotics into the United States. These investigations have brought to justice two key distributors for the Mexican La Familia Michoacan Drug Cartel as well as other high level conspirators responsible for trafficking tons of cocaine and methamphetamine as well as hundreds of pounds of heroin and marijuana into the United States and into our communities, while making millions of dollars poisoning Americans. The United States Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York, the NY Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force and our global DEA offices have worked tirelessly to bring both defendants to justice in the country they poisoned. I commend the DEA’s Special Operations Division, San Diego Field Division, Carlsbad Resident Office, Mexico Country Office, Tijuana Resident Office, Los Angeles Field Division, Bogota Colombia Country Office, Interpol, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.”

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, what these four defendants had in common was the criminal intent and wherewithal to import large quantities of cocaine into the United States. Now, having been successfully extradited, they themselves are in the United States. These cases demonstrate the resolve of the DEA and this Office to bring before the bar of American justice those who pour cocaine and other illegal drugs into the flow of American commerce.”

VARGAS CARDONA

As alleged in the Indictment previously unsealed in Manhattan federal court and documents publicly filed in Colombia in extradition proceedings:

From approximately 2000 to August 2012, Vargas Cardona was a member of La Oficina de Envigado (“Oficina”) a Colombia-based narcotics trafficking organization that served as a debt collection agency for narcotics traffickers, by means including violence, invested in shipments of narcotics, and manufactured cocaine. Oficina distributed thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to locations worldwide, including the United States. As a member of Oficina, Vargas Cardona, among other things, engaged in debt collection activities, established a cocaine laboratory, and participated in acts of violence on behalf of Oficina. In approximately 2008, Vargas Cardona assumed control of Oficina. While a member and as a leader of Oficina, he conspired with others to export and to distribute cocaine, and possessed firearms in furtherance of that crime, including semiautomatic assault weapons, machineguns and destructive devices – including rocket-propelled grenades and grenade launchers – and carried explosive devices, including electric and manual detonators.

VALLEJO-REYES

As alleged in the Indictment previously unsealed in Manhattan federal court and documents publicly filed in Colombia in extradition proceedings:

Beginning in at least 2011, Vallejo-Reyes and his co-defendant Elver Hernan Roa-Avila conspired to transport thousands of kilograms of cocaine using numerous airplanes, including airplanes registered in the United States, from Colombia and Venezuela to points in Central America, particularly Honduras, and the Caribbean and, on occasion, to Africa. The airplanes typically were loaded at and departed from clandestine airstrips located in the Apure region of Venezuela. In addition, in September and October 2012, Vallejo and Roa-Avila conspired to sell approximately 339 kilograms of cocaine in Bogota, Colombia, which the defendants understood would be imported to the United States and distributed. In connection with this conspiracy, 339-kilograms of cocaine supplied by Vallejo-Reyes and Roa-Avila were seized by law enforcement authorities in Colombia.

QUINTERO and DOMINGUEZ GALLARDO

As alleged in the Indictment previously unsealed in Manhattan federal court and documents publicly filed in connection with Mexican extradition proceedings:

Quintero and Dominguez Gallardo were members of a drug trafficking organization affiliated with the La Familia Michoacana cartel, a violent drug trafficking organization based in the state of Michoacan in southwestern Mexico. The cartel has imported vast quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine into the United States from Mexico, and utilizes violence, including assault, murder and kidnaping, to support its narcotics trafficking activities. In that capacity, Quintero and Dominguez Gallardo were responsible for the transport of large quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine from Michoacan, Mexico, into Tijuana, Mexico, and ultimately across the United States border into California, primarily by secreting those narcotics in concealed compartments contained within vehicles. In the course of the investigation, law enforcement agents seized hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine and cocaine belonging to the organization.

Quintero, 39, and Dominguez Gallardo, 44, have each been charged with conspiring to import methamphetamine and cocaine into the United States and conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine, knowing that those substances would be imported into the United States (Count One). The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty.  Vargas Cardona, 40, has been charged with conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States (Count One); conspiracy to distribute cocaine (Count Two); possessing and discharging M50 machineguns, AUG assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and grenade launchers, submachine guns, shotguns, and other firearms, some of which were equipped with silencers, in furtherance of the conspiracy to import cocaine (Count Three); and carrying explosive compounds, grenades, rocket propelled grenades, and electric and manual detonators during the commission of the conspiracy to import cocaine (Count Four). Counts One and Two carry a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison. Count Three carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum penalty of 30 years in prison, to run consecutively to any other penalty imposed. Count Four carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, to run consecutively to any other penalty imposed. The total mandatory minimum sentence Vargas Cardona faces if convicted of all four counts is 50 years in prison.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Harold Baer.  Vallejo-Reyes, 56, has been charged with conspiring to import cocaine and to possess cocaine on board a U.S.-registered aircraft with the intent to distribute it (Count One) and with distributing cocaine knowing and intending that it would be imported into the United States (Counts Two and Three). Each count carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr. Roa-Avila remains in the custody of Colombian authorities.

The arrests and transfers of the defendants were the result of the close cooperative efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York; DEA’s New York Office; DEA’s New York Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Strike Force; New York Drug Enforcement Task Force; DEA’s Special Operations Division; DEA’s San Diego Field Division, Carlsbad Resident Office; DEA’s Tijuana, Mexico Country Office; DEA’s Bogota, Colombia Country Office; DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division; Interpol; the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs; and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. The DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force is comprised of agents and officers of the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York City Police Department, U.S. 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, the U.S. Marshal Service, New York National Guard, Office of Foreign Assets Control and the New York Department of Taxation and Finance. The New York Drug Enforcement Task Force is comprised of agents and officers from the DEA, NYPD and NYSP. Mr. Bharara thanked Colombia’s Cuerpo Técnico de Investigación, a division of La Fiscalía General de la Nación, and the Mexican Military Forces from the 28th Battalion and the Policia Estatal Preventiva for their assistance in this investigation. These prosecutions are being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.

Assistant United States Attorneys Edward Y. Kim and Michael Ferrara are in charge of the prosecution of Vargas Cardona. Assistant United States Attorneys Edward Y. Kim, Michael D. Lockard, and Adam Fee are in charge of the prosecution of Vallejo-Reyes. Assistants Jenna Dabbs and Aimee Hector are in charge of the prosecution of Quintero and Dominguez Gallardo.

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


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