Press Releases

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Extradition Of Alleged International Narcotics Trafficker From Panama

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday July 27, 2012

Defendant Charged With Conspiring to Import and Distribute Cocaine and Heroin into the United States

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Wilbert L. Plummer, Acting Special-Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), today announced that ANDRES CAJIAO-BARBERENA was extradited from Panama on charges that he conspired to import ton-quantities of cocaine and kilogram-quantities of heroin into the United States.  CAJIAO-BARBERENA arrived in the Southern District of New York yesterday and will be presented and arraigned today before United States Magistrate Judge James L. Cott.  The case is assigned to United States District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan.  
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “As alleged, Andres Cajiao-Barberena was a central figure in an international narcotics ring that spread its tentacles from Colombia to Panama and Mexico, and ultimately, to the United States.  But the United States justice system has a long reach too – and every drug lord who thinks he is safe in some foreign haven but who we bring to justice for infecting our communities with cocaine and heroin is an important step forward for all of us.  Thanks, once again, to our international law enforcement partnerships, today we have taken another such important step.”
DEA Acting Special Agent-in-Charge for the New York Division Wilbert L. Plummer stated: “The Drug Enforcement Administration continues to investigate drug trafficking organizations at the highest levels, domestically and internationally.  This extradition is yet another example of DEA’s commitment to disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking supply organizations and their networks.  A combined effort from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, with the coordination of the host nation counterparts enables these types of investigations to be successful.”

The following allegations are based on the Indictment previously filed in Manhattan federal court:  

CAJIAO-BARBERENA was the head of operations in Panama for an international drug-trafficking organization (“DTO”), led by Manuel Felipe Salazar-Espinosa, a Department of Justice designated Consolidated Priority Organization Target (“CPOT”) - a designation reserved for the world’s most significant narcotics traffickers.  The DTO coordinated the transportation of cocaine and heroin loads to Panama from Colombia by sea, and CAJIAO-BARBERENA was tasked by Salazar-Espinosa with securing a warehouse in Panama where the drug loads were stored.  The drugs were subsequently secreted inside heavy machinery, which was then transported from Panama to Mexico. In Mexico, the drugs were removed from the machinery and then transported by a Mexican drug-trafficking organization to New York and other cities in the United States.  Between 2002 and late July 2005, the DTO transported more than 5,000 kilograms of cocaine, worth more than $100 million, for ultimate importation into the United States.

Salazar-Espinosa was convicted after trial in the Southern District of New York in June 2007 of cocaine importation and money laundering conspiracy charges and is currently serving a 30-year sentence.  

*                *                *

CAJIAO-BARBERENA is charged with two Counts.  In Count One, he is charged with conspiracy to import cocaine and heroin into the United States and to distribute cocaine and heroin, knowing and intending that the narcotics would be imported into the United States.  In Count Two, he is charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, knowing and intending that it would be imported into the United States.  Each count carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative efforts of the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, which is comprised of agents and officers of the DEA, the NYPD, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the New York State Police, the DEA’s Panama Country Office, and the Panamanian National Police.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs, for its assistance. 

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward Y. Kim and Michael D. Lockard are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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