Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Anne Milgram, the Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced that former Venezuelan official HUGO ARMANDO CARVAJAL BARRIOS, a/k/a “El Pollo,” was extradited today from Spain to the United States based on an Indictment filed in the Southern District of New York charging CARVAJAL BARRIOS with narco-terrorism conspiracy, conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, and related firearms offenses. CARVAJAL BARRIOS will be presented tomorrow before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron. CARVAJAL BARRIOS was arrested in Spain on September 9, 2021.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “After many years as a fugitive following a more than decade-long criminal career, Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios arrived in the United States today to face justice for his alleged crimes, which were committed with the intent to ‘flood’ the United States with tons of potentially deadly drugs. As alleged, Carvajal Barrios exploited his authority as the director of Venezuela’s military intelligence agency to corrupt Venezuelan institutions, abuse the Venezuelan people, and to import poison to the United States. His alleged leadership of the Cártel de Los Soles inflicted immeasurable pain and suffering on many Venezuelans, Americans, and others who were affected by the cartel’s violence and drug trafficking activities. I commend the prosecutors of this Office and our law enforcement partners for their tireless work on this important case.”
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said: “Corrupt government officials like Carvajal, who allegedly use their position to accept bribes and further drug trafficking activities, should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. As alleged, Carvajal abandoned his responsibility to the people of Venezuela and exploited his position for personal gain. DEA and our partners stand united to bring to justice anyone, in any position, who endangers the safety and health of the American people.”
According to the allegations contained in the Indictments, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings:1
Beginning in at least 1999, CARVAJAL BARRIOS, a Venezuelan citizen and the former director of Venezuela’s military intelligence agency, which was known as the Dirección de Inteligencia Militar (“DIM”), along with other high-ranking Venezuelan officials, acted as leaders and managers of the Cártel de Los Soles, or “Cartel of the Suns.” The Cartel’s name refers to the sun insignias affixed to the uniforms of high-ranking Venezuelan military officials. CARVAJAL BARRIOS and other Cartel members abused the Venezuelan people and corrupted the legitimate institutions of Venezuela — including parts of the military, intelligence apparatus, legislature, and judiciary — to facilitate the importation of tons of cocaine into the United States. The Cártel de Los Soles sought not only to enrich its members and enhance their power but also to “flood” the United States with cocaine and inflict the drug’s harmful and addictive effects on users in the United States. To accomplish these goals, the leaders of the Cártel de Los Soles partnered with leaders of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (“FARC”), who controlled cocaine production in vast areas of Colombia and Venezuela.
CARVAJAL BARRIOS held multiple positions of public trust in Venezuela that he exploited to benefit the Cártel de Los Soles, including as director of DIM between approximately 2004 and 2011. CARVAJAL BARRIOS took advantage of that position to illegally traffic narcotics and support his drug trafficking partners, the FARC. In or about 2006, for example, CARVAJAL BARRIOS coordinated with other members of the Cártel de Los Soles to dispatch a 5.6-ton cocaine shipment from Venezuela on a private jet bearing a United States registration number. The jet departed Venezuela and landed in Mexico, where Mexican authorities seized the 5.6 tons of cocaine upon arrival. In or about 2008, CARVAJAL BARRIOS attended a meeting with a FARC representative at which it was agreed that the Cártel de Los Soles would provide the FARC with cash and weapons in exchange for increased cocaine production.
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CARVAJAL BARRIOS, 63, a Venezuelan national, is charged with: (i) participating in a narco-terrorism conspiracy, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison; (ii) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison; (iii) using, carrying, and possessing machineguns and destructive devices in connection with the narco-terrorism and cocaine importation conspiracies, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison; and (iv) conspiring to use, carry, and possess machineguns and destructive devices in connection with the narco-terrorism and cocaine importation conspiracies, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The mandatory minimum and maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding efforts of the DEA’s Special Operations Division Bilateral Investigations Unit, Miami Field Division, and Madrid Country Office; Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control; the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and U.S. Embassy Madrid worked with law enforcement partners in Spain, including the Spanish National Police, Spain’s Antidrug Special Prosecutor’s Office, Spain’s Ministry of Justice, and Spain’s Ministry of Interior, to secure the arrest and extradition of CARVAJAL BARRIOS.
This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s National Security and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason A. Richman, Kaylan E. Lasky, and Kyle A. Wirshba are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Kevin C. Nunnally of the Counterterrorism Section.
The charges contained in the Indictments are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
1 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictments and the description of the Indictments set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.