Colombian Drug Kingpin and Paramilitary Leader Sentenced to 35 Years in Prison for Operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise and Conspiring to Provide Material Support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization
Daniel Rendon Herrera, a.k.a. “Don Mario,” Ordered to Pay $45.7 Million in Forfeiture
Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Daniel Rendon Herrera, also known as “Don Mario,” a citizen of Colombia, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dora L. Irizarry to 35 years’ imprisonment for engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise as a leader of the paramilitary, multibillion dollar drug organization known as the “Clan del Golfo” (CDG), and 15 years’ imprisonment for conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). The sentences will run concurrently. As part of the sentence, the Court ordered Rendon Herrera to pay $45,750,000 million in forfeiture. The defendant pleaded guilty to the charges in November 2021.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Damian Williams, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division; Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division (DEA); Michael Alfonso, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI); Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); Keechant L. Sewell, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD); and Steven A. Nigrelli, First Deputy Superintendent, New York State Police (NYSP), announced the sentence.
“Once the most feared narco-terrorist in Colombia, today marks the end of the criminal career of Rendon Herrera, responsible for importing tons of cocaine, fueling violence, perpetuating drug abuse leaving a wake of destruction from Colombia to the United States, and stained with the blood of rival drug traffickers and civilians who were tortured and killed by the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Our Office remains committed to cooperating with our international partners to dismantle transnational criminal organizations like the Clan del Golfo.”
“Daniel Rendon Herrera was one of the most prolific drug traffickers to ever operate in Colombia,” stated DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Tarentino. “As leader of the AUC and Clan del Golfo, Don Mario was responsible for not only importing multi-ton quantities of cocaine into the United States, but also for terrorizing the citizens of Colombia for financial gain. Today’s sentencing underscores DEA’s commitment to bringing to justice drug traffickers at the highest levels who cause the most harm throughout our communities.”
“These paramilitary drug cartels may seem to be a world away, but they have a deadly impact on communities here in New York City. Today’s sentencing demonstrates we and our partners remain committed to pursuing the leadership of these organizations and will hold them accountable for the devastation they cause,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.
“Starting in the late 1990’s, Rendon Herrera was the leader and mastermind behind a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially-Designated Global Terrorism Organization. Under his leadership, Clan del Golfo (CDG) was responsible for heinous acts of violence, often leaving death and destruction in its wake to further the organization’s global cocaine trafficking network,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Alfonso. “Today’s sentencing and ordered forfeiture demonstrates the weight of Rendon Herrera’s crimes. HSI will continue to work ceaselessly alongside our partners to protect Americans by dismantling and disrupting transnational criminal organizations and bring their leaders to justice.”
“Today’s sentencing reinforces the NYPD’s tireless work to rid our city of illegal narcotics and ensures meaningful consequences for one of the world’s most notorious narcotics traffickers,” said NYPD Commissioner Sewell. “The drugs and violence linked to this case knew no borders – but neither did the combined efforts of our NYPD officers and law enforcement partners as we collaborated on the local, state, federal, and international levels to achieve justice. For their sustained dedication, I am proud to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York State Police, and everyone else who contributed to this successful outcome.”
As set forth in the court filings and proceedings, since the late 1990’s, Rendon Herrera was a leader of the designated foreign terrorist organization, the AUC, and founder and leader of the CDG, formerly and also referred to as Los Urabeños and Clan Usuga, effectively the successor organization to the AUC.
The AUC, founded in 1997, was a Colombian paramilitary and drug-trafficking organization, designated in 2001 by the United States Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially-Designated Global Terrorism Organization. The AUC engaged in armed conflict with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia (FARC), Colombia’s main guerilla group, and sought to remove FARC sympathizers from positions of power and influence in Colombia. To support its political and terrorist objectives, the AUC imposed “taxes” on cocaine trafficked through AUC-controlled areas and engaged in violent attacks including murders and kidnappings. By 2006, many members of the AUC demobilized as part of the Colombian government’s Justice and Peace process – a process under which paramilitary members surrender to the Colombian government and relinquish their criminally-derived assets in exchange for reduced sentences and amnesty from extradition. Rather than submit to the peace process, Rendon Herrera re-mobilized the AUC as the CDG.
The CDG, like the AUC, continued to finance their paramilitary and drug trafficking by imposing a “tax” on multi-ton shipments of cocaine that transited through areas in Colombia controlled by the organization, which shipments – more than 80 tons of cocaine – were ultimately destined for importation into the United States. The CDG also employed “sicarios,” or hitmen, who carried out various acts of violence, including murders, assaults, kidnappings, and assassinations to collect drug debts, maintain discipline, control and expand drug territory and to promote and enhance the prestige, reputation and position of the organization. By 2009, when Rendon Herrera was captured by the Colombian National Police, he commanded 16 “bloques,” or territories, across Colombia and thousands of armed paramilitary fighters. Additionally, since 2009, Rendon Herrera has been designated by the United States Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. Rendon Herrera’s successor as leader of the Clan del Golfo, Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, also known as “Otoniel,” was extradited to the Eastern District of New York in May 2022 to face charges of leading a continuing criminal enterprise and participating in an international cocaine manufacturing and distribution conspiracy, and is awaiting trial.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan P. Lax, Francisco J. Navarro, and Andrew D. Grubin are in charge of the prosecution and Assistant United States Attorney Claire S. Kedeshian of the Office’s Asset Recovery Section is handling forfeiture matters, with assistance provided by Assistant United States Attorney Alexander Li of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and Trial Attorney Elisabeth Poteat of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs handled the extradition in this matter and the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS) Judicial Attaché Office in Bogotá, Colombia was instrumental in supporting the case.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
DANIEL RENDON HERRERA (also known as “Don Mario”)
E.D.N.Y. Docket Nos. 14-CR-625 (S-3) (DLI) / 20-CR-569 (S-6) (DLI)
S.D.N.Y. Docket Nos. 04-CR-962 (LAP) / 08-CR-659 (SAS)