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Press Release

Colombian National Pleads Guilty To Producing And Trafficking Over 1,400 Kilograms Of Cocaine

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, FL - United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Juan Carlos Perlaza Caicedo (45, Colombia), a/k/a “Olindo Perlaza Caicedo” and “Gafas,” has pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute 5 or more kilograms of cocaine on a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Perlaza Caicedo faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years, up to life, in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Perlaza Caicedo was arrested in Tumaco, Colombia on May 4, 2019, pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant. He was extradited to the United States on November 22, 2023.

According to the plea agreement, Perlaza Caicedo was responsible for the production and transportation of several tons of cocaine from Colombia to Central America from at least 2002 through 2017. In addition to transportation logistics, Perlaza Caicedo managed and operated cocaine-production laboratories in Colombia, where he manufactured large amounts of cocaine on a per-order basis. In addition to production of cocaine at laboratories, Perlaza Caicedo helped coordinate multiple maritime cocaine transportation trips, including recruitment and payment of mariners and determination of maritime routes to avoid law enforcement.

The cocaine Perlaza Caicedo produced was ultimately destined for importation to the United States. In August 2011, March 2012, and September 2014, the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted drug smuggling vessels associated with Perlaza Caicedo’s efforts. During those three interdictions alone, Perlaza Caicedo played a role in conspiring to transport at least 1,422 kilograms of cocaine. Following his arrest in Colombia, Perlaza Caicedo admitted his involvement in cocaine-smuggling along the Pacific coast of South and Central America.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi- jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations.

The specific mission of the OCDETF Panama Express Strike Force is to disrupt and dismantle Transnational Criminal Organizations involved in large scale drug trafficking, money laundering, and related activities. The OCDETF Panama Express Strike Force is comprised of agents and officers from the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security Investigations. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section’s Judicial Attaché’s Office at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, the U.S. Marshals Service, and Colombian law enforcement authorities provided significant assistance in securing the arrest and extradition from Colombia of Perlaza Caicedo.

The prosecution is being led by the Office of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Krebs.

Updated March 1, 2024

Drug Trafficking