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Press Release

Leader Of A Colombian Drug Trafficking Organization Sentenced To 25 Years In Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York
Ericson Vargas Cardona, a/k/a “Sebas,” led La Oficina de Envigado,

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ERICSON VARGAS CARDONA, a/k/a “Sebas,” was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 25 years in prison for conspiring to traffic in cocaine and using a semiautomatic assault weapon in furtherance of the cocaine trafficking conspiracy.  In October 2013, VARGAS CARDONA was extradited to the United States from Colombia, where he was arrested pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant that was issued in response to a request by the U.S. Government in connection with this case.  VARGAS CARDONA pled guilty on April 14, 2015, and was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “Ericson Vargas Cardona led a criminal enterprise that specialized in cocaine and violence – and lots of both.  Armed with machine guns, explosives, and a grenade launcher, Vargas Cardona distributed his drugs all over the world, including the United States.  Thanks to the incredible dedication of the agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Vargas Cardona is no longer a global threat.”

According to the Indictment, documents publicly filed in Colombia in extradition proceedings, publicly filed documents in Manhattan federal court, and statements made at court proceedings in this case, including today’s sentencing:

From 2000 to August 2012, VARGAS CARDONA was a member of La Oficina de Envigado (“La Oficina”), a Colombia-based narcotics trafficking organization that began as a debt-collection agency associated with the United Self-Defenses Forces of Colombia (“AUC”), a right-wing paramilitary organization.  La Oficina collected debts on behalf of narcotics traffickers, invested in narcotics shipments, and eventually began producing cocaine independently.  La Oficina distributed thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to locations worldwide, including the United States.  In addition, La Oficina engaged in the systematic bribery of Colombian officials.

As a member of La Oficina, VARGAS CARDONA, among other things, worked as a sicario, or assassin, engaged in debt collection activities, and established a cocaine laboratory.  In 2009, VARGAS CARDONA assumed control of La Oficina.  At the time of VARGAS CARDONA’s arrest by Colombian authorities on August 8, 2012, he was found at a property that was used to store an arsenal of weapons and explosives.  Colombian authorities recovered, among other things, 69 bars of C4 explosive, over 190 electrical detonators, more than 2,900 manual detonators, one rocket-propelled grenade launcher, one M-60 machine gun, nine submachine guns, over 50 hand grenades, 28 rifles, nine silencers, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. 

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In addition to his prison term, VARGAS CARDONA, 42, was sentenced to five years of supervised release.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the New York Field Office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) and the DEA’s Bogotá, Colombia, Country Office.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Edward Y. Kim and Michael Ferrara are in charge of the prosecution.

Updated February 23, 2016

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 16-042