Alleged Mexican Drug Kingpin Extradited to the United States to Face Drug and Money-laundering Charges
Defendant’s Organization Allegedly Trucked Thousands of Kilograms of Cocaine Across the Texas-Mexico Border
Alleged Mexican drug kingpin Esteban Rodriguez-Olivera was extradited from Mexico to the United States on Friday, March 11, 2011, and will be arraigned later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn 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. Rodriguez-Olivera was arrested in Mexico on a provisional warrant issued from the Eastern District of New York, and also faces federal criminal charges in the District of Columbia.
The extradition was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, 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 2007 the United States Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force designated the defendant and his brother, Luis Rodriguez-Olivera, 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, for the period of 1996 to 2008, Los Gueros imported over 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 over 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; 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 coconspirators 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 coconspirator, he was recorded by law enforcement setting up a meeting in the Dominican Republic to plan shipments of narcotics to New York.
“No matter what steps a narcotics trafficker might take to avoid being apprehended, ultimately there is no escape from justice,” stated United States 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.” Ms. 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.
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. If convicted, Rodriguez-Olivera faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment, and forfeiture of $50 million.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Walter M. Norkin.
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