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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 18, 2016

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Extradition Of International Drug Traffickers For Their Involvement In Conspiracy To Import Narcotics Into The United States

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William R. Sherman, Special Agent in Charge of the San Diego Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), today announced that ROBERTO PONCE-ROCHA was extradited from Colombia where he had been arrested for charges arising out of his leadership role in a drug trafficking conspiracy involving the transportation of large-scale quantities of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine into the United States.  As part of the DEA’s investigation of PONCE-ROCHA, which began in or around 2013, law enforcement authorities in the United States and abroad have seized thousands of kilograms of cocaine and other narcotics.  PONCE-ROCHA, a Mexican citizen, arrived in the Southern District of New York yesterday, and was presented today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. 

Previously, on or about May 24, 2016, two co-conspirators charged in the same Superseding Indictment, Juan Caicedo-Zuniga and Adan Munoz-Cordoba, arrived in the Southern District of New York following their extradition from Panama.  Caicedo-Zuniga and Munoz-Cordoba, who are both Colombian citizens, were arrested on charges arising out of their participation in some of the same narcotics transactions organized and facilitated by PONCE-ROCHA.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said:  “As alleged, Roberto Ponce-Rocha was for years a leader of a drug trafficking organization that moved thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to countries around the world, including to the United States.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of the DEA and its international counterparts, Ponce-Rocha will now face justice in a United States court.” 

DEA SAC William R. Sherman said:  “The extradition of these alleged international drug traffickers sends a clear message to those who are thinking about endangering the citizens of our country with these potentially deadly drugs: your greed will get you an all expenses paid trip to the United States and a nice long stay in a federal detention facility.” 

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment as well as statements made in Court:[1]

From at least in or around July 2013 through in or around January 2016, PONCE-ROCHA was a leader in a large-scale international narcotics trafficking conspiracy based in Central and South America that used various methods, including commercial shipments, drivers, and couriers to move narcotics around the world, and to import narcotics into the United States.  PONCE-ROCHA was involved in the transportation of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine across the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as the shipment of large-scale quantities of cocaine from Colombia to countries throughout the world, including the United States.  Caicedo-Zuniga and Munoz-Cordoba conspired with PONCE-ROCHA to import narcotics into the United States and other countries.

PONCE-ROCHA was arrested by Colombian authorities on or about March 20, 2016, in Colombia.   

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PONCE-ROCHA, 55, is charged in one count of conspiring to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine, at least one kilogram of heroin, and at least 500 grams of methamphetamine, knowing that such substances would be imported into the United States.  That charge carries a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison.  The statutory minimum and maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman. 

Mr. Bharara praised the DEA for its work in the investigation.  Mr. Bharara also expressed his appreciation to the DEA Special Operations Division, Homeland Security Investigations San Diego, United States Customs and Border Protection San Diego, the Fontana California Police Department, the Policia Nacional de Panama Unidad de Investigaciones Sensitivas (UEIS), the Colombian National Police Direccion de Investigaciones Criminal e INTERPOL (DIJIN), the Costa Rica Policia Control de Drogas (PCD), the Republica Dominicana Direccion Nacional de Control de Drogas (DNCD), and the Spanish Guardia Civil for their assistance in the investigation.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys James M. McDonald, Kimberly J. Ravener, and David Zhou are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Superseding Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.US v. Roberto Ponce-Rocha et al. S1 Indictment.pdf

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Superseding Indictment, and the description of the Superseding Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
16-305
Updated November 18, 2016