Saturday, March 21, 2009

Narcotics: U.S. arrests associates of Colombian terrorist organization for conspiracy to import cocaine

Lev L. Dassin, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and John P. Gilbride, the Special Agent-In-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced the arrests yesterday of Jose Joaquin Montes-Ovalles and Maria Lilian Castellanos-Poveda, alleged cocaine brokers for the 10th Front of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), Colombia's main left-wing terrorist group, on charges of conspiring to import ton-quantities of cocaine into the United States.

Montes-Ovalles and Castellanos-Poveda were arrested Thursday in Colombia during an operation staged by the Colombian Army with the support of the investigative unit Cuerpo Technico de Investigaciones (CTI), of the Colombian National Prosecutor's Office (Fiscalia). The Colombian authorities were acting on a request by the U.S. Embassy in Bogota for the provisional arrest of the defendants for the purpose of extradition.

According to the indictment unsealed yesterday in Manhattan federal court:

The FARC is a terrorist group dedicated to the violent overthrow of Colombia's democratically elected government. It consists of approximately 10,000 armed guerillas organized into 77 "fronts" and four urban militias. The FARC has also evolved into the world's largest supplier of cocaine. The FARC's 10th Front is responsible for attempting to obtain control, by military force, of the Arauca Department of Colombia, an area bordering Venezuela. To support its terrorist activities, the FARC's 10th Front supplies and arranges cocaine shipments from airstrips in Venezuela and the Colombian border with Venezuela.

Beginning in April 2006, Montes-Ovalles and Castellanos-Poveda, who were alleged cocaine brokers for the FARC's 10th Front, met with DEA undercover agents posing as representatives of the Mexican Juarez Cartel, to plan a shipment of one ton of cocaine from airstrips in Venezuela. During negotiations Montes-Ovalles specifically confirmed that they were representing the FARC and that the FARC would provide security for Juarez Cartel operatives in Colombia.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Acting U.S. Attorney Lev L. Dassin stated: "This case represents another step in the ongoing effort to thwart a designated terrorist organization from financing its operations through narcotics trafficking. We are grateful to our partners at the DEA and our counterparts in the Colombian government for their extraordinary work on this case."

DEA Special Agent-In-Charge John P. Gilbride stated: "These arrests demonstrate the commitment of international law enforcement to dismantle drug trafficking organizations and end their reign of terror in their home countries and the terrible destruction of their drug distribution in the United States. Along with our Colombian law enforcement partners we have once again arrested two narco-terrorists who have conspired to inundate the United States with narcotics. Today, they have been arrested and they face the consequences of their illegal activity."

Mr. Dassin specifically thanked the DEA's New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force and the Narco-Terrorism Group of the DEA's Bogota Country Office for their work in investigating the case, and also thanked the CTI, Fiscalia, and the Colombian Army for their assistance.

The New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force is comprised of agents and officers of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, the United States Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Department of Homeland Security United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York State Police.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office's International Narcotics Trafficking Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey A. Brown and Rebecca M. Ricigliano are in charge of the prosecution.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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