FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
For Information Contact:
High-Level International Drug Trafficker Convicted
of Long-Running Narcotics Conspiracy
Defendant Operated Out of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Bahamas, Spain, France, Italy, Panama, and Luxembourg
WASHINGTON - Gregory Joel Sitzmann, 61, has been convicted by a jury of a federal drug conspiracy charge for his role as the leader of an international drug trafficking and money laundering ring that operated at least 14 years out of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Bahamas, France, Italy, Spain and other countries.
The verdict, returned May 21, 2012, was announced today by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., John P. Torres, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Field Office in Washington, D.C., and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Sitzmann, who was born in Iowa, most recently resided in Colombia. He was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. The verdict followed a six-week trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia The Honorable Paul L. Friedman scheduled a status hearing for June 12, 2012. Sitzmann faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison.
According to the government’s evidence, Sitzmann has used and conspired to use numerous individuals and artifices to transport hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia and Mexico into the United States and into numerous countries around the world. For example, Sitzmann used commercial and private airplanes, automobiles and trucks with secret compartments, and luggage with secret compartments, to move the drugs. He also contemplated using Colombian Air Force planes to smuggle cocaine into Canada.
Evidence showed that Sitzmann has been involved in drug smuggling and money laundering since at least the 1980s and that he provided hundreds of kilograms of cocaine to a Hells Angels motorcycle gang in Montreal, Canada throughout the 1990s. He maintained corporations and bank accounts in Panama, Switzerland, Luxembourg and elsewhere to facilitate his money laundering and the purchase of assets.
“Gregory Sitzmann was a high-flying international cocaine trafficker who eluded justice for decades,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Thanks to a District of Columbia jury, Mr. Sitzmann is no longer free to smuggle cocaine and cash from one country to the next. He will now remain behind bars to contemplate the countless lives destroyed by the drugs he distributed for so many years.”
“Mr. Sitzmann was the leader of an international drug trafficking and money laundering organization and is a career criminal with multiple narcotics felony convictions in the United States and elsewhere,” said Special Agent in Charge Torres. “HSI and our law enforcement partners will continue to pursue those who continue their illicit activities even after prior convictions.”
“This case demonstrates that the District of Columbia cannot be used as a platform for distributing drugs throughout the United States,” said Police Chief Lanier. “This defendant smuggled drugs world-wide for years. A jail cell is far less exotic than some of the countries he operated in - but fitting.”
Sitzmann was indicted on Aug. 7, 2008 by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for activities that took place during the 1990s and at least until 2004. The day after the indictment, Sitzmann was deported from France to the United States, where HSI Agents arrested Sitzmann. He has been in custody ever since. The defendant delayed trial for years, utilizing numerous attorneys while alternating with demands to represent himself.
The prosecution grew out of the efforts of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a multi-agency team that conducts comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the nationwide program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.
In recent years, investigations by this task force have led to the arrests and indictments of dozens of people from drug organizations that operate in the Washington, D.C. area.
In announcing the verdicts, U.S. Attorney Machen, Special Agent in Charge Torres, and Chief Lanier thanked the many dedicated people who worked on the case, including the ICE Special Agents and the investigators from the MPD. They also thanked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the French National Police, French Customs, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Royal Bahamas Police, for assistance in the investigation.
They acknowledged the work of those who handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegals Crystal Seldon, Candice Sisco, and David Hollingsworth; Legal Assistants Tammy Scott and Diane Brashears; Victim/Witness Coordinator Dawn Tolson-Hightower, and Litigation Technology Specialists Ron Royal and Joshua Ellen.
Finally, they thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys George Eliopoulos and Sharad Khandelwal, who investigated and tried the case.