WASHINGTON – Alleged Mexican drug kingpin Esteban Rodriguez-Olivera, 47, was extradited from Mexico to the United States on Friday, March 11, 2011, and was arraigned today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., on charges contained in a superseding indictment returned on March 21, 2008. Rodriguez-Olivera is one of two brothers believed to be the leaders of “Los Gueros,” an international drug organization responsible for shipping more than 100 tons of cocaine to the United States. Mexican authorities arrested Rodriguez-Olivera on a provisional warrant issued from the Eastern District of New York, and he and his brother, Luis Rodriguez-Olivera, also face federal criminal charges in the District of Columbia.
The extradition was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; John P. Gilbride, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York; and James T. Hayes Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York. The investigation was conducted by DEA offices in New York, Texas and Guadalajara, Mexico, and ICE/HSI, in New York, with assistance provided by the Internal Revenue Service and law enforcement authorities in Mexico.
According to the indictment and an unsealing application filed by the government in the Eastern District of New York, in 2007 the U.S. Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force designated the defendant and his brother drug kingpins, adding them to the list of the world’s most significant narcotics traffickers and money launderers. Los Gueros’ supply route originated in Mexico, stretched into Texas, and branched off to various points within the United States, including the New York City metropolitan area. The organization received multi-ton shipments of cocaine from Colombia along the Gulf coast of Mexico, and transported drug shipments into the United States through Laredo and McAllen, Texas.
The superseding indictment alleges that, from 1996 to 2008, Los Gueros imported more than 100,000 kilograms (100 tons) of cocaine into the United States, and the DEA estimates that between 2004 and 2006, the organization was responsible for shipping truckloads containing more than 2,000 kilograms (two tons) of cocaine to New York City alone. As part of the investigation, in October 2004, ICE agents seized approximately 156 kilograms of cocaine hidden in one of the organization’s tractor-trailers; and in 2005, ICE agents seized approximately $2.1 million in drug proceeds bound for the organization in Mexico.
As detailed in the government’s detention letter, to minimize the chance of his detection and arrest, Rodriguez-Olivera frequently relied on his associates to communicate with other co-conspirators by telephone and rarely spoke on the telephone himself. He also avoided being photographed. However, during the course of the investigation, in one instance when Rodriguez-Olivera spoke by telephone directly with a co-conspirator, he was recorded by law enforcement setting up a meeting in the Dominican Republic to plan shipments of narcotics to New York.
Esteban Rodriguez-Rivera and Luis Rodriguez-Olivera are charged in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia in relation to the seizure of approximately 5.2 tons of cocaine in January 2006 by the Mexican Navy in the Pacific Ocean near Manzanillo, Colima. The defendants are charged with engaging in a conspiracy to import cocaine and to manufacture and distribute cocaine knowing and intending that it would be imported into the United States, as well as with the substantive offense of manufacturing and distributing cocaine knowing that it will be imported into the United States.
“No matter what steps a narcotics trafficker might take to avoid being apprehended, ultimately there is no escape from justice,” stated U.S. Attorney Lynch. “Thanks to the cooperation of our partners in Mexico, there is no safe haven for a drug trafficker, and kingpins are no exception.” U.S. Attorney Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the agencies that conducted the government’s investigation and thanked the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs for its significant assistance in this case.
“Extraditions are critical to our ability to bring major narcotraffickers to justice, and are a central component of the cooperative relationship between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The extradition to the United States of Esteban Rodriguez-Olivera – an alleged leader of a major drug trafficking organization – is a concrete example of how we are working with our Mexican partners to dismantle these criminal enterprises.”
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Gilbride stated, “With roots in Guadalajara to distribution cells throughout the Eastern seaboard, this drug trafficking organization was responsible for smuggling millions of dollars of cocaine into our nation. The arrest today sends a message to drug traffickers that you can run, but you cannot hide from global law enforcement who share a goal of putting you out of business.”
ICE/HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Hayes stated, “As alleged in the indictment and other court filings, the defendant is not only responsible for importing tons upon tons of cocaine destined for New York City, but he made millions of dollars in profit from this illegal drug activity. Dismantling this type of criminal enterprise and stemming the flow of drugs into the United States remains a top priority for Homeland Security Investigations and our federal partners.”
The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case pending in the Eastern District of New York is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Walter M. Norkin. The case pending in the District of Columbia is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Charles D. Griffith Jr. of the Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice.