WASHINGTON – A high-ranking member of the designated foreign terrorist organization Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, has been sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on drug charges, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division announced today.
Anayibe Rojas Valderrama, aka “Sonia,” was sentenced to 200 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Robertson. Her two co-defendants, Jose Antonio Celis, aka “Calvo,” and Juan Diego Giraldo, aka “Flaco,” were sentenced to 175 months and 200 months in prison respectively.
The three defendants were convicted by a jury of narcotics trafficking on Feb. 20, 2007, following a five-week trial. They had been indicted for conspiring to import five kilograms or more of cocaine into the United States and conspiring to manufacture and distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine intending and knowing that the cocaine would be unlawfully imported into the United States.
Rojas Valderrama was the finance officer of the 14th Front of the FARC. She was extradited from Colombia to the United States in March 2005 to stand trial on the U.S. charges, and is the first FARC leader to be convicted in the United States.
Evidence at trial consisted of the testimony of Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Colombian law enforcement officials, cooperating witnesses, surveillance evidence, videotapes, and tape-recorded conversations. The evidence showed that Rojas Valderrama oversaw all aspects of the purchasing and production of cocaine in the 14th Front territory and collected all of the proceeds from the sale of cocaine for the 14th Front. Jose Antonio Celis was a major drug trafficker who arranged for the purchase of large quantities of cocaine from Rojas Valderrama and the 14th Front, and coordinated the transhipment of the cocaine from Colombia to Panama, and from Panama into the United States. Antonio Celis conspired with Rojas Valderrama and Juan Diego Giraldo to purchase more than 5,000 kilograms of cocaine for shipment to the United States. Diego Giraldo introduced Celis to the 14th Front for the purpose of purchasing cocaine, worked with Rojas Valderrama to purchase and transport cocaine, brought equipment for the 14th Front’s cocaine production operation, and assisted Rojas Valderrama in all aspects of cocaine production and sale.
“The sentencing of FARC’s Commandante Sonia and her co-defendants shows that the United States will hold the leaders of this narco-terrorist organization responsible for their role in trafficking drugs and committing acts of violence on the streets of this country,” said Assistant Attorney General Fisher. “The prosecution of these FARC members, the first of its kind in the United States, was made possible because of the exceptional cooperation of Colombian authorities and the hard work and efforts of the DEA agents and federal prosecutors who, working together, were essential to the successful conclusion of this important case.”
The FARC, a violent narco-terrorist guerrilla group operating in Colombia, controls large portions of Colombia and finances its violent conflict with the Colombian government by engaging in drug trafficking, augmented by other means including kidnaping and extortion. Drug trafficking is the lifeblood of the FARC because it enables the FARC to acquire weapons, ammunition and equipment necessary to carry on its violent attacks. DEA estimates that the FARC controls approximately 70 percent of the Colombian cocaine trade, and that approximately 80 to 90 percent of the cocaine that is shipped to the United States comes from Colombia. The FARC produces and distributes thousands of kilograms per month for export to the United States and other countries.
A number of FARC members and criminal associates have been charged with terrorism and drug-related crimes in U.S. indictments. In addition to narcotics trafficking, the indictments charge the FARC and its members with, among other crimes, the kidnaping and murder of U.S. citizens.
The case was prosecuted in the District of Columbia by trial attorneys Ron McNeil, Stephen May, and James Faulkner from the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS) of the Criminal Division. The investigation in this case was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, in close cooperation with Colombian law enforcement. The extradition of these defendants resulted from the cooperative efforts of the government of Colombia, and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and NDDS.