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News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2008

14 Members of Colombian Paramilitary Group Extradited to the United States to Face U.S. Drug Charges

MAY 13 -- WASHINGTON – Fourteen alleged members of a former paramilitary and drug-trafficking group known as the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), including high-ranking former leaders, have been extradited from Colombia to the United States to face drug trafficking charges, the Department of Justice announced today. Defendants face charges in the District of Columbia, the Middle District of Florida, the Southern District of Florida, the Southern District of New York and the Southern District of Texas. Defendants will make their initial appearances in the districts in which they are first brought into the United States.

Indicted defendants face charges including: conspiracy to import cocaine; conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine; possession, manufacture or distribution of cocaine; providing material support to a designated terrorist organization; and money laundering. As part of the extradition requests, the United States has provided assurances to the government of Colombia that it will not seek a life sentence for any of the defendants, but instead will ask for a prison term of years.

“These extraditions are yet another substantial step by the government of Colombia, in partnership with the United States, to hold accountable those who support terrorist organizations and send illegal drugs into this country,” said Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey. “We commend the courage of the Government of Colombia, which recognizes that these crimes pose a serious threat to both of our nations. With continued cooperation, we will ensure that those who commit such crimes face justice.”

“Fourteen leaders of one of the world's largest and most powerful drug-trafficking organizations arrived in handcuffs on U.S. soil today. They range from kingpin to bloque commanders who all used the drug trade to finance their illegal activities and poison Americans with multi-tons of cocaine," said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. "With these extraditions, President Uribe demonstrates once again his unparalleled commitment to ridding Colombia of the drug trade and narco-terrorist organizations.”

According to the indictments, the former AUC members facing charges are:

  • Nodier Giraldo-Giraldo (District of Columbia); Charged in a superseding indictment returned on March 2, 2005, with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine with intent to import into the United States, aiding and abetting the conspiracy and a forfeiture allegation.
  • Hernan Giraldo-Serna (District of Columbia); Charged in a superseding indictment returned on March 2, 2005, with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine with intent to import into the United States, aiding and abetting the conspiracy and a forfeiture allegation.
  • Edwing Mauricio Gomez-Luna (District of Columbia); Charged in a superseding indictment returned on March 2, 2005, with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine with intent to import into the United States, aiding and abetting the conspiracy and a forfeiture allegation.
  • Eduardo Enrique Vengoechea-Mola (District of Columbia); Charged in a superseding indictment returned on March 2, 2005, with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine with intent to import into the United States, aiding and abetting the conspiracy and a forfeiture allegation.
  • Martin Peñaranda-Osario (District of Columbia); Charged in a superseding indictment returned on March 2, 2005, with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine with intent to import into the United States, distribution of cocaine with the intent to import into the United States, aiding and abetting that offense and a forfeiture allegation.
  • Rodrigo Tovar-Pupo, a/k/a “Jorge 40” (District of Columbia); Charged in a superseding indictment returned on March 2, 2005, with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine with intent to import into the United States, aiding and abetting the conspiracy and a forfeiture allegation.
  • Salvatore Mancuso-Gomez (District of Columbia); Charged in a superseding indictment returned on Sept. 17, 2002, and unsealed Sept. 24, 2002, with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine with intent to import into the United States, aiding and abetting that offense and a forfeiture allegation.
  • Juan Carlos Sierra-Ramirez (District of Columbia); Charged in an indictment returned on Sept. 17, 2002, and unsealed Sept. 24, 2002, with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine with intent to import into the United States, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine on board a vessel subject to U.S. jurisdiction, possession with intent to distribute cocaine on board a vessel subject to U.S. jurisdiction, aiding and abetting those offenses, and a forfeiture allegation.
  • Diego Fernando Murillo-Bejarano, a/k/a “Don Berna” (Southern District of New York); Charged in a superseding indictment filed July 12, 2004, and unsealed on July 22, 2004, with a dual object narcotics conspiracy: to import cocaine into the United States, and to distribute cocaine, knowing and intending that it would be imported into the United States. He is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
  • Diego Alberto Ruiz-Arroyave (Southern District of Texas); Charged in a superseding indictment returned on Oct. 14, 2004, and unsealed on June 28, 2006, with conspiracy to provide material support and resources to the AUC. The defendant is also named in a forfeiture allegation.
  • Ramiro Vanoy-Murillo, (Southern District of Florida); Charged in a fourth superseding indictment filed on Nov. 18, 1999, with conspiracy to distribute cocaine; conspiracy to import of cocaine into the United States, and money laundering conspiracy.
  • Francisco Zuluaga-Lindo, (Southern District of Florida); Charged in a fourth superseding indictment filed on Nov. 18, 1999, with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to import of cocaine into the United States, and money laundering conspiracy.
  • Guillermo Perez-Alzate (Middle District of Florida); Charged in an indictment returned on Dec. 11, 2002, and unsealed on May 13, 2008, with conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine knowing that it would be imported into the United States, and a forfeiture allegation.
  • Manual Enrique Torregrosa-Castro (Middle District of Florida); Charged in an indictment filed May 3, 2007, with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, and two forfeiture allegations.

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

On May 7, 2008, Carlos Mario Jimenez-Naranjo, a/k/a. Macaco, was extradited from Colombia to the United States to face drug trafficking charges in the District of Columbia and the Southern District of Florida. Before his arrest, Jimenez-Naranjo was allegedly one of the top leaders of the AUC.

The Department of Justice is pleased that these individuals will also face justice in the United States, and remains committed to working with the Government of Colombia to ensure that the Justice and Peace Process is fully implemented. Victims participating in this process can use existing legal mechanisms to access the defendants. Colombia and the United States cooperate extensively via multilateral legal assistance agreements and conventions, as well as the letters rogatory and letter request processes.

The cases in the District of Columbia will be prosecuted by attorneys assigned to the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS). The cases in the Middle District of Florida, the Southern District of Florida, the Southern District of New York and the Southern District of Texas will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for each of the districts. The investigations in these cases were led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI, with significant assistance provided by law enforcement in Colombia. The extraditions of all the defendants resulted from the cooperative efforts of the government of Colombia, the Colombian Fiscal General, NDDS, the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices involved in the cases and the U.S. Department of State.

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