Has Colombia’s Biggest Mafia Boss Surrendered?

April 19, 2012

In Sight on April 18, 2012 released the following:

“Written by Jeremy McDermott

Reports that the head of Colombia’s most powerful drug cartel, the Rastrojos, has surrendered to US authorities are false, according to sources contacted by InSight Crime, and may be aimed at sowing chaos within the organization and Colombia’s underworld.

Spain’s El Mundo reported that Javier Calle Serna [], alias “Comba,” had turned himself into the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and that his brother Luis Enrique [] would soon do the same. The newspaper said it had confirmed the story with both DEA and Colombian intelligence services, and the news was reported on the front page of every major news organization in Colombia.

However, two high-level law enforcement sources, as well as a third source very close to the case, told InSight Crime that Calle Serna was not in US custody. And although there appear to be negotiations between the Calle Serna brothers and US authorities, there is no confirmation of any surrenders.

Whatever the truth, the news is sure to throw the Colombian underworld into a state of panic. The Comba brothers have a criminal career going back two decades and have had contact with many of the biggest players in the cocaine business, both Colombian and Mexican. The Rastrojos are believed to be the biggest suppliers of cocaine to the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias “El Chapo,” one of the world’s most wanted men.

The Rastrojos are also known to have networks in Ecuador, Venezuela and Spain, as well as a fleet of drug submarines to move product, with air and land routes that shuttle shipments through Central America. Another of the Calle Serna brothers was arrested in Ecuador in March, an added factor that could be feeding the rumors of surrender. If Javier Calle Serna were to deliver information to US authorities, it could have huge implications for the cocaine business throughout Latin America.

The surrender of Calle Serna brothers would not mean the end of the Rastrojos. It has always had two wings: the Combas, run by the Calle Serna brothers, and the military wing led by Diego Perez Henao, alias “Diego Rastrojo,” after whom the group is named. The latter is the most important in terms of cocaine production. It dominates certain parts of Colombia (see map), collects coca base to process into cocaine and controls internal smuggling routes and departure points. This part of the Rastrojos is also believed to have an agreement with the rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN), which protects drug crops, laboratories and escorts shipments within Colombia.

The Combas have concentrated more on handling international smuggling routes, laundering money and running a network of assassins. Indeed, it is believed that Javier Calle Serna started out in the drug business by providing an efficient assassination and enforcement service in Cali, attracting the attention of members of the Norte del Valle Cartel, before taking over much of the organization after killing his boss, Wilber Varela, in Venezuela in January 2008.

However, Calle Serna could certainly deliver vast amounts of intelligence on the workings of the Rastrojos and help the DEA prepare a new raft of extradition orders for key members of the group, further weakening an organization that has seen a series of arrests of key members over the last 18 months.

The Rastrojos is not a vertically integrated and hierarchical organization. It is an association of drug traffickers, most with roots in the now defunct Norte del Valle Cartel (and its predecessor the Cali Cartel). Due to the group’s expansion since 2008, it also includes former members of the demobilized United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). There will no doubt be a panic in the ranks of Rastrojos associates and moves to change habits and residence just in case the rumors are true of a surrender of the top leadership.

There are other players who could take advantage of chaos in the Rastrojos’ ranks. First and foremost are Victor Patiño-Fomeque and Martin Fernando Varon, alias “Martin Bala.” These men have been fighting the Comba brothers on their home turf along the Pacific coast, based out of Cali and the province of Valle del Cauca.

Patiño-Fomeque was a member of the Cali Cartel who surrendered in 1995 after the heads of that organization, Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, were captured. He was later released, then recaptured and extradited in 2002. He is believed to have cooperated with US authorities, and members of the Cali mafia tried to silence him by killing of many of his relatives. He was released from prison in the US in 2010 and returned to Colombia, where he is believed to have sought revenge on the Rastrojos for the killing of his family, and to have restarted his cocaine smuggling business. He is also alleged to be working with Martin Fernando Varon, another former member of the Cali Cartel.

The Rastrojos’ principal rivals for national domination are the Urabeños. A truce was apparently negotiated between the Rastrojos and Urabeños at the end of 2011, whereby the Rastrojos promised to withdraw from the region of Bajo Cauca (in the provinces of Cordoba and Antioquia), while the Urabeños pledged to pull support from Patiño-Fomeque and Varon. This arrangement would be unlikely to survive if the head of the Rastrojos surrendered to the US.

Rumors of Calle Serna’s imminent surrender have been circulating for months. In February, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos stated that both Javier and Luis Enrique Calle Serna were finalizing their surrender to US authorities. The prospect of Calle Serna’s surrender means there is likely to be another round of bloodshed in the Colombian underworld, particularly in the Rastrojos’ strongholds of Cali and the Valle del Cauca department, as well as along several key drug trafficking routes, particularly on the Pacific coast and the Eastern Plains that lead into Venezuela.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

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To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


U.S. busts an alleged global online drug market, arrests eight

April 17, 2012

Chicago Tribune on April 16, 2012 released the following:

“Dan Whitcomb | Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Eight men charged with running an elaborate online narcotics market that sold drugs to 3,000 people in the United States and 34 other countries have been arrested following a two-year investigation dubbed “Operation Adam Bomb,” prosecutors said on Monday.

The secret ring known as “The Farmer’s Market” operated through the TOR computer network, which allows users to communicate anonymously, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed on Monday in Los Angeles.

The online drug market provided order forms and customer service, guaranteeing delivery in exchange for a commission and accepting payment through PayPal, Western Union and other means, the indictment charges.

Authorities said the defendants were accused of running one of the most sophisticated drug marketplaces on the Internet and said the prosecution represented a first of its kind.

“The drug trafficking organization targeted in Operation Adam Bomb was distributing dangerous and addictive drugs to every corner of the world, and trying to hide their activities through the use of advanced anonymizing on-line technology,” Briane Grey, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration acting special agent in charge, said in a written release.

“Today’s action should send a clear message to organizations that are using technology to conduct criminal activity that the DEA and our law enforcement partners will track them down and bring them to justice,” Grey said.

Marc Willems, 42, who is accused of creating and running “The Farmer’s Market,” was taken into custody at his home in Lelystad, Netherlands, by Dutch authorities, U.S. Attorneys spokeswoman Gymeka Williams said.

Law enforcement officials in Bogota arrested 42-year-old Michael Evron, a U.S. citizen living in Argentina who allegedly oversaw technical and customer support for the online marketplace, as he was attempting to leave Colombia, Williams said.

Jonathan Colbeck, 51; Brian Colbeck, 47; Ryan Rawls, 31; Jonathan Dugan, 27; George Matzek, 20; and Charles Bigras, 37, were arrested at their respective homes in Iowa, Michigan, Georgia, New York, New Jersey and Florida.

All eight defendants were charged with federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges and prosecutors had filed extradition papers to return Willems and Evron back to the United States for trial, Williams said.

Each faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

According to the 66-page indictment, “The Farmer’s Market” allowed independent sources to advertise illegal drugs – including LSD, ecstasy, fentanyl, mescaline ketamine, DMT and high-end marijuana – for sale to the public.

The deals were allegedly handled through the online marketplace, which processed more than 5,200 orders for controlled substances valued at more than $1 million between January 2007 and October 2009, the indictment charges.

The law enforcement operation was called “Adam Bomb” because the original name of the marketplace was Adamflowers, according to the indictment.

According to its website, TOR offers free software and an open network that allows users to defend against “network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

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To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Police arrest alleged prominent narco in central Colombia

March 5, 2012

Colombia Reports on March 5, 2012 released the following:

“Colombian police said Monday they have arrested one of the sub-commanders of the country’s largest neo-paramilitary organization the “Urabeños.”

Andres Arroyabe Ramirez, alias “Maquina,” was captured in the central Cundinamarca department.

Maquina, described by police as one of the most feared criminals in the Colombia, has been linked to the “Norte del Valle” drug cartel, its descendant the “Rastrojos,” the Urabeños and the “Oficina de Envigado.”

According to earlier reports, Maquina was the Urabeños’ main capo in the coffee region and the Valle del Cauca department.

Arroyabe Ramirez is requested for extradition by U.S. authorities for drug trafficking and the murder of an American government witness.

The investigation took four months which began after the murder in Bogota of alias “El Gordo,” a source deployed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Bogota.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

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We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and Colombia here.

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To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Mexico Captures Armando Villareal Heredia an Alleged US-born Tijuana Drug Lieutenant

July 12, 2011

The Associated Press (AP) on July 11, 2011 released the following:

“By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON, Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Federal police have captured a U.S.-born drug lieutenant who joined the Tijuana cartel after a crackdown on the notorious Arellano Felix brothers caused the group to splinter and emerge with a younger leadership, officials said Monday.

Armando Villareal Heredia, 33, is a San Diego native accused of trafficking drugs from the northern state of Sinaloa into the United States, federal police said in a statement.

Villareal is also wanted by the U.S. on federal conspiracy and racketeering charges, according to a 2010 complaint that alleges murder, kidnapping and other crimes in both Mexico and California. Named in the most-wanted list of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s San Diego region, Villareal is among 43 defendants charged by the U.S. Attorney.

Mexican and U.S. authorities say Villareal takes orders from Fernando Sanchez Arellano, aka “The Engineer,” a drug kingpin who is the leader of a younger but weaker Tijuana cartel. Sanchez, who is in his 30s, is a nephew of the four Arellano Felix brothers who have been either killed or arrested since 2006.

In the complaint, U.S. officials say Sanchez’s criminal organization is an offshoot of the defunct Arellano Felix cartel, whose domination of Tijuana was fictionally portrayed in the Hollywood movie “Traffic.”

Federal police arrested Villareal on Saturday in the northern city of Hermosillo.

Justice Department spokeswoman Debra Hartman confirmed Villareal was a U.S. citizen. Hartman did not want to comment on Monday on a possible extradition request.

In the past, Mexican authorities have captured other drug cartel members born in the U.S. Last August Mexican authorities captured a Texas-born drug kingpin Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as “La Barbie.”

The arrest or death of the Tijuana cartel’s leadership in recent years sparked a bloody war of succession, but the strategy used to bring the gang down is being replicated in other violence-plagued regions.

More than 35,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon began its offensive against organized crime in 2006, according to official figures. Some groups put the number at more than 40,000.

In other parts of Mexico, drug cartels are also splintering to form offshoots triggering violent confrontations.

On Monday, Mexican authorities blamed the Knights Templar, a gang that broke away from La Familia cartel, for the Friday killings of 11 people outside Mexico City.

The victims were shot with high-powered rifles and found piled near a water well on the outskirts of Mexico City.

The attorney general of Mexico state, home to suburbs that ring Mexico’s capital, said the victims were kidnapped two days earlier in a bar by members of the Knights Templar, according to the only survivor of the mass killing.

Attorney general Alfredo Castillo said the survivor told police only four of the 11 victims were members of the cult-like La Familia cartel and deemed as rivals of the Knights Templar.

Associated Press writer Gloria Perez in Toluca contributed to this story.”

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Did the U.S. Offer a Plea Deal to Viktor Bout?

January 3, 2011

Viktor Bout, the suspected Russian arms merchant, is being quoted as saying U.S. authorities promised him a lighter sentence in exchange for information about his contacts.

Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” said the plea bargain offer was extended by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents who transported him from Thailand in November.

Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 in a U.S. sting on charges of conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist group. He fought extradition, but was sent in November to New York, where he is in federal detention awaiting trial.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Sunday that Bout said he was offered “a lighter sentence…and the possibility of bringing my family to the U.S.A., if I told all I know about my contacts in Russia and other countries. But I responded that I have nothing to say.” See the entire news article and interview here.

If the U.S. government did offer Bout a plea deal in exchange for information and he rejected it, Bout is most likely headed for trial in the U.S. at this point.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Russia Condemns US Extradition of Russian Pilot

July 22, 2010

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. on Wednesday of “kidnapping” a Russian pilot in the West African country of Liberia several weeks ago for alleged drug smuggling.

Konstantin Yaroshenko, 41, was arrested in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, in late May — by U.S. agents, Russian officials said — and then extradited to New York without notifying Russian officials first.

He has been accused of smuggling large amounts of cocaine throughout South America, Africa and Europe.

DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden said Yaroshenko was apprehended May 28 by Liberian authorities, who turned him over to the DEA two days later under an arrest warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry sharply condemned Yaroshenko’s arrest and extradition.

Yaroshenko’s lawyer, Alexander Bozhenko, was quoted Wednesday by RIA news agency as saying that the way Yaroshenko was arrested violated the law, and that Yaroshenko was kept tied up in a hotel room, naked and without water, for two days before his extradition.

Yaroshenko’s U.S. lawyer, Sam Schmidt, said Wednesday that it was his “understanding was he was not treated well” in Liberia after his arrest. His client is “doing OK” physically now that he is in the U.S. prison system, he added.

He said Yaroshenko was not extradited but instead was expelled by the Liberian government just before he was taken into custody by Liberian authorities and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and brought to New York.

Apparently, the DEA took Yaroshenko into custody without notifying the Russian embassy, consulate or anyone else.

Charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan allege Yaroshenko was an aircraft pilot who transported cocaine throughout South America, Africa and Europe.

In recent years, drug cartels have used West Africa as a major transit point for shipment of vast quantities of cocaine to Europe and the U.S.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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