October 5, 2005
Contact: S/A Elizabeth Jordan
States Extradites Former Colombian Colonel
Responsible For Smuggling $10 Million Worth Of Heroin From Bogota To The United
P. GILBRIDE, Special Agent in Charge of Drug Enforcement Administration's
Field Division and MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United
States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and announced
today the extradition and arraignment of LEONEL MENDOZA AGUIRRE ("MENDOZA"),
a former Colombian National Police Colonel, for his participation in
an international narcotics-trafficking organization that smuggled close
to $10 million worth of heroin from El Dorado International Airport in
Bogota, Colombia into the United States.
MENDOZA’s organization obtained heroin in Colombia and then used
human couriers to smuggle the heroin on board commercial airliners destined
for the United States between March and October 2004, according to the
Indictment and publicly filed extradition papers. The organization’s
alleged smuggling methods included hiding the heroin in suitcases that
the couriers carried through the El Dorado International Airport. MENDOZA
allegedly used his personal contacts with corrupt airport employees to
facilitate the couriers’ safe passage from Colombia to the United
States. According to the Indictment, Colombian law enforcement officers
intercepted, through court-authorized wiretaps, more than 50 conversations
during which MENDOZA coordinated these safe passages.
The Indictment charges that MENDOZA’s organization smuggled close
to $10 million worth of heroin from Colombia into the United States,
including to the streets of New York City. To date, U.S. and Colombian
authorities have seized more than 30 kilograms of heroin from the criminal
organization, with a street value of more than $3 million.
In January, Colombian authorities arrested 18 additional members of the organization
in Colombia for their participation in the charged heroin-smuggling conspiracy.
If convicted, MENDOZA faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory
minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
MENDOZA will be presented later today in front of Magistrate Judge RONALD ELLIS
and arraigned on Friday, October 7,2005, before United States District Judge
ROBERT P. PATTERSON.
Mr. GARCIA praised the investigative efforts of the DEA and the Colombian National
Police. He said the investigation is continuing.
Assistant United States Attorneys NEIL M. BAROFSKY and DAVID LEIBOWITZ are in
charge of the prosecution.