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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Leaders of Colombia’s “Clan Rincon” Sentenced to Prison Terms for Roles in International Drug Trafficking Conspiracy

Today, a federal judge in Ft. Lauderdale sentenced two brothers whose family owns one of the largest emerald mines in Boyacá, Colombia to prison terms for conspiring with Boyacá’s cocaine producers, leading to thousands of kilograms of Colombian cocaine entering the United States.

United States District Judge Rodney Smith sentenced the leader of the “Clan Rincon,”53- year-old Colombian national Pedro Nel Rincon-Castillo, to 235 month in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. The judge sentenced the leader’s brother, Omar Rincon-Castillo, 50, of Colombia, to 210 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. On January 6, 2020, both defendants pled guilty to conspiring to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, knowing that the cocaine was heading for the United States. 

According to court documents, two major exports of Boyacá, Colombia are emeralds and cocaine. Most of the world’s emeralds come from Boyacá and the region is rife with coca farms that yield cocaine base and laboratories that manufacture cocaine for export.

Pedro and Omar are part of the Rincon-Castillo family, known as Clan Rincon. The family owns emerald mines in Boyacá, Colombia.  Clan Rincon is powerful and has significant influence in the region. 

In the early 2000s, communist guerilla members of FARC were making their way into Boyacá. They demanded that cocoa farmers, owners of drug laboratories, and owners of emerald mines pay “taxes” to FARC.  To stop FARC from taxing the family’s emerald mines, Pedro -- the leader of Clan Rincon -- arranged intervention from the Defense Forces of Colombia (known by its Spanish acronym, AUC).  AUC, which is a right-wing paramilitary and drug trafficking group that is enemy to FARC, arrived in Boyacá and kept FARC out of the region. 

AUC wanted compensation for its services. In exchange for continuing to keep Boyacá free of FARC, AUC sought to tax the emerald mine owners.  Clan Rincon offered another idea.  Clan Rincon, through Pedro, Omar, and others, proposed that AUC tax the area’s cocoa farmers and owners of the cocaine drug laboratories, instead of the mine owners. They reached a deal.

With Clan Rincon’s assistance and approval, cocoa farmers and owners of drug laboratories paid a fee for AUC’s protection. This protection deal, which Clan Rincon orchestrated and approved, allowed the cocoa farmers and drug laboratory owners to continue their criminal activities, leading to the export of thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia for eventual entry into the United States.  

On November 15, 2019, the judge sentenced co-defendant Jose Rogelio Nieto Molina, 46, of Colombia, to 168 months in prison, for his role in the conspiracy. The sentencing of co-defendant Horacio Triana is set for April 28th. The sentencing of co-defendant Gilberto Rincon is set for May 4th.

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and Kevin W. Carter, Special Agent in Charge, DEA, Miami Field Division, made the announcement.  U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the DEA Miami Field Division, DEA Bogota Country Office, the Government of Colombia, the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the Office of the Judicial Attaché in Colombia, and the U.S. State Department for their assistance in this matter. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Emery, Andrea Goldbarg, and Michael B. Nadler are prosecuting this case.

The prosecution was part of Operation Money Badger, which is a result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.  The OCDETF mission is to identify, investigate, and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking enterprises, bringing together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Updated March 17, 2020