Lev L. Dassin, acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and John P. Gilbride, special agent-in-charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced the arrests March 19 of José Joaquin Montes-Ovalles and Maria Lilian Castellanos-Poveda, accused cocaine brokers for the 10th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), on charges of conspiring to import ton-quantities of cocaine into the US.
Montes-Ovalles and Castellanos-Poveda were arrested in Colombia’s eastern department of Arauca in an operation staged by the Colombian army with the support of the Technical Investigation Crops (CTI) of the National Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía). The Colombian authorities were acting on a request by the US Embassy in Bogotá for the arrest of the defendants for the purpose of extradition.
According to the indictment unsealed the day of the arrests 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.
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.”
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.”
Dassin specifically thanked the DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force and the Narco-Terrorism Group of the DEA’s Bogotá Country Office. The New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force is comprised of agents and officers of the DEA, FBI, ICE, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, NYPD and New York State Police. (AP via Univsion, March 21; DoJ press release, March 20, via PR Newswire)
See our last post on Colombia.