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COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT APPROVES EXTRADITION OF FIVE COLOMBIAN CITIZENS TO BOSTON TO FACE INTERNATIONAL COCAINE TRAFFICKING CHARGES

THURSDAY, JULY 22, 2010

BOSTON, Mass. - The first five defendants in a multi-defendant international cocaine trafficking conspiracy arrived in Boston late last night to face federal charges. The defendants arrived in Boston, after being approved for extradition by the Colombian President, and transferred from Colombian to U.S. custody at an airport in Bogota, Colombia.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, Steven M. Derr, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Boston Field Office, Susan M. Dukes, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division - Boston Field Office and John Gibbons, United States Marshal for the District of Massachusetts, announced today that a federal grand jury in the District of Massachusetts returned an indictment charging: (1) LEYVAN ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS, 39, a/k/a “Ivan,” (2) HECTOR JAVIER CASTRO-MEZA, 47, a/k/a “Pepe,” (3) LUIS ALBERTO ZAPATA-SANCHEZ, 43, a/k/a “El Negro,” (4) GUSTAVO CASTRO-CAICEDO, 50, a/k/a “Luis Amaro,” (5) FIDEL ALBERTO RUALES-VALLEJO, 36, a/k/a “Cui,” (6) MAY ADOLFO MORCILLO-MOLINA, 29, a/k/a “May,” (7) BERNARDO ALBERTO MERINO-CUARAN, 27, a/k/a “Gaviota,” and (8) ALEX CASTRO-CORTES, 34, a/k/a “Alex,” a/k/a “Ali” with conspiracy to import five kilograms or more of cocaine into the U.S. from Colombia, and manufacture and distribute cocaine in Colombia, knowing that it would be unlawfully imported into the U.S.

The following five individuals arrived in Boston late last night from Colombia: ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS, CASTRO-MEZA, CASTRO-CAICEDO, RUALES-VALLEJO, MORCILLO-MOLINA and will appear in District Court in Boston later today. The remaining three defendants are in Colombian custody, awaiting extradition to the United States.

United States Attorney Ortiz said, “The extradition of these defendants is the result of extraordinary collaboration and cooperation that crossed national and international borders. I want to commend the DEA and Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security on their outstanding investigation and unprecedented cooperation.”

“I also want to acknowledge and thank the Colombian government for their support and assistance in this matter,” she said. “These extraditions should send a strong message to international drug traffickers, that we will continue to work with our international partners to stem the flow of drugs being smuggled into the United States.”

According to affidavits filed with the court in support of extradition and detention, the charges in this case – which has been dubbed “Operation Bean Pot” – resulted from a years-long international undercover operation which began in Boston in 2005. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) ultimately coordinated numerous undercover operations across the world, transferred millions of dollars, at times using the Black Market Peso Exchange in Colombia, in order to identify and prosecute criminal organizations like those led by ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS, and seized over $9 million during undercover operations in North America, South America, Europe and the Caribbean.

The affidavits also allege that, based on investigative leads developed by the DEA from a money pick-up in the Bahamas in March 2007, Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security (DAS) obtained judicial authorization to intercept conversations on several Colombian cellular phones. It is alleged that, as a direct result of those interceptions Colombian authorities had seized more than 2,900 kilograms of cocaine in Colombia, most of which was the property of the ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS drug trafficking organization. Based on defendant CASTRO-MEZA’s estimate of $35,000 per kilogram of cocaine in the U.S., the seizures from the ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS organization amount to more than $100 million of cocaine.

According to the extradition affidavit, ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS is alleged to be the leader of a large Colombian drug trafficking organization that imports cocaine into the U.S. by using Filipino merchant marines working on commercial container ships. CASTRO-MEZA, CASTRO-CAICEDO and CASTRO-CORTES are allegedly lieutenants for ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS, each of whom is responsible for arranging transportation of ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS’s cocaine out of Colombia. According to the extradition affidavit, CASTRO-MEZA allegedly instructed Filipino merchant marines to transport cocaine from Colombia to New Orleans, Louisiana and also told a confidential source that s/he could make $3,500 for every kilogram of cocaine that s/he transported to the U.S. on behalf of ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS’s organization.

It is alleged that ZAPATA-SANCHEZ controls land routes in Colombia over which ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS’s cocaine must pass when transported from the lab to the port in Colombia, Buenaventura, from where it is then exported. Therefore, ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS needs ZAPATA-SANCHEZ’s permission before transporting cocaine shipments over these land routes. According to the affidavit, MERINO-CUARAN allegedly operates the laboratory that supplies ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS with cocaine, and is assisted by MORCILLO-MOLINA. RUALES-VALLEJO also allegedly works closely with ALVAREZ-BASTIDAS to coordinate large cocaine shipments.

All of the defendants have been intercepted on judicially authorized-wiretaps in Colombia in direct communication with each other regarding specific details of the organization’s cocaine trafficking and distribution.

“International borders offer no security to drug traffickers who seek to flood our communities with tons of cocaine and launder the proceeds as alleged in this indictment. Traffickers will not escape the grasp of law enforcement professionals who have dedicated themselves to putting these criminal groups out of business,” said DEA Special Agent- in-Charge Derr. “Operation Bean Pot is a great example of a cooperative effort that spanned the globe. These extraditions would not have been possible without the hard work of the Colombian authorities, United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, Internal Revenue Service and our local law enforcement partners.”

Susan Dukes, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation stated, “IRS Criminal Investigation plays a unique role in federal law enforcement's counter-drug effort in that we target the profit and financial gains of narcotics traffickers which comprise a significant portion of the untaxed underground economy. IRS-CI follows the money trail to financially disrupt and dismantle significant narcotics trafficking organizations. We welcome the opportunity to work these important investigations with our law enforcement partners.”

This case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation, Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security, as well as local and state police. The U.S. Attorney’s Office would also like to acknowledge and thank the U.S. Marshal’s Service in the District of Massachusetts for their assistance. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zachary R. Hafer and George W. Vien of the U.S. Attorney’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

The defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 


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