Aurora Betancourt, a Canadian citizen, will be arraigned today in federal court in Brooklyn before United States Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold on an indictment charging her with conspiring to distribute, and distribution of, fentanyl. Betancourt was arrested in Colombia on December 28, 2018, and extradited to the United States on December 18, 2019.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F .Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), and Dermot F. Shea, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the extradition and indictment.
“As alleged in the indictment, Betancourt arranged the transportation of what she and her co-conspirators referred to as heroin, but what was in fact fentanyl, a synthetic opioid substitute even more potent than heroin,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “Thanks to the outstanding work by law enforcement officers, Betancourt’s alleged plan to flood our streets with this extremely dangerous drug was thwarted, and she will now face justice for her actions.” Mr. Donoghue extended his grateful appreciation to Drug Enforcement Administration Galveston, Texas office and the United States Marshals Service.
“Narcotics such as fentanyl and heroin are destroying lives and terrorizing communities across the United States, as well as here in New York. As alleged, the defendant showed a flagrant disregard for human life and public safety, by arranging with her associates to have a significant amount of fentanyl transported to New York,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “Today’s arrest demonstrates the commitment of the FBI and our law enforcement partners to holding accountable anyone who would perpetuate the cycle of addiction contributing to the opioid crisis.”
“Allegedly responsible for attempting to transport 13 kilos of highly addictive fentanyl onto the streets of New York City, Betancourt will now have to answer for her actions that could have resulted in overdoses and deaths in our city,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh. “Fentanyl has claimed the lives of far too many Americans, and so seizures and arrests like this are an important step to help rid the streets of this deadly epidemic.”
According to court documents, at a meeting in Queens, New York, in July 2017, Betancourt conspired with others to transport narcotics from Houston, Texas, for distribution in the New York metropolitan area. The conspirators referred to the narcotics as “grasa,” a code for heroin. DEA agents seized the narcotics in Texas before they could be transported. Subsequent laboratory testing revealed that the narcotics were actually fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid that can serve as a substitute for heroin and frequently results in overdoses by users. The total weight of the seizure was approximately 13 kilos, at the time the second largest seizure of fentanyl by the DEA. DEA estimated the street value of the fentanyl in New York at approximately $800,000.
If convicted of either count of the indictment, Betancourt faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering section. Assistant United States Attorney Alicia N. Washington is in charge of the prosecution.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-623 (ARR)