News and Press Releases

Alleged International Narcotics Traffickers Extradited From Colombia on Cocaine Importation Charges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 24, 2014

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade County State Attorney, Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, and Scott Israel, Sheriff, Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO), announce the extradition of Colombian citizens Omar Alejandro Vanegas Lora, a/k/a “Paco,” 41, and Edinson Antonio Ahumada Arboleda, a/k/a “El Primo,” 48, from Colombia to the United States to face charges in the Southern District of Florida involving the importation of kilogram quantities of cocaine into the United States. Vanegas Lora and Ahumada Arboleda arrived in the Southern District of Florida on January 23, 2014 and made their initial appearance today in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris M. McAliley.

The charges announced today are the result of a multi-agency investigation that began in 2010 into the drug smuggling activities at Port Everglades. To date, the investigation has resulted in the indictment and conviction of nearly a dozen former King Ocean Services employees who worked at Port Everglades and numerous drug traffickers who received the narcotics from the port that were being smuggled aboard cargo ships owned or operated by King Ocean Services. As a result of this investigation, Omar Alejandro Vanegas Lora and Edinson Antonio Ahumada Arboleda were indicted in the Southern District of Florida on January 25, 2013. The indictment charges Omar Alejandro Vanegas Lora and Edinson Antonio Ahumada Arboleda with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. From 2011 until the date of Vanegas Lora’s arrest on these charges, he was the elected mayor of Tenerife, a town near Barranquilla, Colombia.

The investigation revealed that beginning in at least 2009 through the date of the indictment, Vanegas Lora and Ahumada Arboleda allegedly ran a scheme to smuggle multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine aboard King Ocean Services cargo vessels that were destined for Port Everglades, while these vessels were docked at ports of call overseas. Once the vessels arrived at Port Everglades, Vanegas Lora and Ahumada Arboleda allegedly coordinated the offloading of the narcotics from the vessels with Port Everglades employees and other associates, and arranged to have the narcotics delivered to local drug traffickers.

The conspiracy allegedly involved the importation of more than 150 kilograms of cocaine through Port Everglades.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “The arrest and extradition of Omar Alejandro Vanegas Lora and Edinson Antonio Ahumada Arboleda are the direct result of strong international cooperation with Colombian authorities. It also reflects the hard work, commitment, and perseverance of our Colombian and U.S. law enforcement partners to rid our streets of drugs and make our ports of entry safer. Now that Vanegas Lora and Ahumada Arboleda have been successfully extradited, justice will be served.”

“I’m very proud that the initial leads developed by our Money Laundering Strike Force led to numerous international cases well prosecuted by our Federal partners. This is just another example of the fine work our State and Federal law enforcement partners accomplish every day,” commented Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

HSI Special Agent in Charge Alysa D. Erichs added, “HSI and our law enforcement partners will continue to combat drug trafficking in the United States. Our ports will not serve as an entry point for narcotics or other contraband.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville stated, “The ports along Florida’s coastline have long been utilized by drug traffickers and it continues to be a concern for DEA. Successful indictments and extraditions like these wreak havoc on international drug trafficking organizations. The DEA remains vigilant in these areas and will continue to work side by side with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to bring justice to those who conspire to bring dangerous drugs into our nation.”

“The tools that were utilized to identify and investigate this drug trafficking organization make this joint investigation one of the first of its kind at Port Everglades,” Sheriff Israel said. “It took many years to build the case, but the successful prosecution of these individuals is a win for the residents of Broward County.”

The indictment of Vanegas Lora and Ahumada Arboleda is the result of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation led by HSI in conjunction with the DEA Miami Field Division, the Broward County Sherriff’s Office, and the South Florida Money Laundering Strike Force. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI, DEA, BSO and the South Florida Money Laundering Strike Force. The ICE-HSI Attaché’s Office in Bogotá provided significant assistance and support during the arrest and extradition of the defendants. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aimee Jimenez.

An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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