- New York Investigation Results in the Extradition of Four Argentine
Heroin-Traffickers to the United States Following Landmark Ruling by Argentine
ANTHONY P. PLACIDO, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, announced today the extradition from Argentina of Enrique Javier Moscoloni, Carla Lorena Zurrian, Betiana Eva Zurrian and Tamara Sabrina Arla-Pita, who are charged with operating the Buenos Aires cell of a drug-shipping network that sent multi-kilogram amounts of heroin from Colombia to Argentina so that Argentine couriers on commercial flights from Buenos Aires to New York could transport the narcotics to the United States. The extradition is unprecedented for any Latin American nation in that it provides for the temporary surrender of these defendants for prosecution in the United States while narcotics charges remain pending against them in Argentina. It is also the first extradition of Argentine nationals under a new treaty between the United States and Argentina, ratified in 2000.
This extradition marks the final chapter in the successful dismantling of a well-organized heroin-smuggling network. As part of the investigation, which also included law enforcement agencies from Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina, more than forty kilograms of heroin, worth millions of dollars on the street, were seized, and 17 individuals were arrested. In December 2001, the ring-leader of this organization, Gabriel Antonio Pelaez-Marin, was extradited from Colombia to the Eastern District of New York. Following his guilty plea, Pelaez-Marin was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment.
As detailed in the complaints filed in connection with this matter, Argentine couriers carried the heroin, sewn in the lining of clothing in their luggage, to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York and Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. The couriers arriving in Atlanta took passenger trains to New York to deliver the drugs.
The organization arranged at least a dozen courier trips to the United States between August 1999 and May 2000. Each courier carried between four and 12 kilograms of heroin.
In June 2000, the Buenos Aires Provincial Police arrested the defendants on violations of Argentine drug laws. In November 2000, the United States sought their formal extradition. In May 2001, an Argentine federal judge denied the request for extradition on grounds that the U.S. heroin importation prosecution and the concurrent Argentina prosecution for narcotics trafficking constituted double jeopardy under the Argentine constitution.
In November 2002, the Supreme Court of Argentina reversed the decision of the lower court and held that the offense of heroin importation into the United States and the Argentine offense of narcotics trafficking constituted two separate crimes, and therefore double jeopardy was no bar to extradition.
Mr. PLACIDO stated: "We at the Drug Enforcement Administration wish to acknowledge and thank our partners in Argentina. Their commitment and cooperation in this and in many other matters relating to international drug control are critical to our efforts to protect the public from the negative consequences of drug abuse."
The defendants are charged in a complaint alleging a conspiracy to import heroin. If convicted, each faces up to a life term of imprisonment and a $4,000,000 fine. The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned today before Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom at the United States District Court in Brooklyn, New York. The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas J. Seigel.