Largest Drug-Profit Seizure Targets Alleged Medellin Cartel Property
MIAMI (AP) _ The federal government has seized five Florida properties worth $20 million as part of a campaign to confiscate drug-profit investments estimated to exceed $300 million in Florida.
″You take the money away from these people and you hurt them,″ U.S. Attorney Leon Kellner said of Monday’s seizures.
The five properties represent the largest single drug-profit investment seizure ever, Kellner said.
The properties are believed owned by two alleged kingpins of Colombia’s Medellin Cartel, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria and Juan David Ochoa Vazquez.
The DEA says the cartel controls more than half the cocaine smuggled into the United States. Another reputed cartel principal, Carlos Lehder Rivas, is on trial in Jacksonville after being extradited from Colombia on federal drug- smuggling charges.
The properties include beachside condominiums, large apartment complexes, a ranch in Florida’s thoroughbred horse country and a mansion.
Kellner said the properties have a fair-market value of about $20 million. He said the U.S. Marshal’s Service would take over management of all the properties, adding that no tenants need fear eviction.
In 1986, federal agencies in Florida took possession of articles and property worth $130 million. But that was only a tiny percentage of the investments federal agents estimate flows back into this country, considering the amount of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs believed to be slipping into the country, he said.
Escobar is wanted in the murder of federal witness Barry Seal and in the nation’s largest cocaine conspiracy case, the alleged importation of 58 tons in five years.
Juan David Ochoa is the older brother of Jorge Luis Ochoa Vazquez, a man ranked with Escobar as one of the cartel’s emperors. Jorge Luis Ochoa was arrested by Colombian authorities last month and the United States hopes to extradite him.
Juan David Ochoa was indicted in 1986 on allegation that he, Jorge Luis and another brother, Fabio Ochoa Vasquez, controlled massive drug-dealing in the United States.
Kellner said the civil actions to seize the properties were filed Friday and were based on evidence that they were bought with drug proceeds. The owners of the properties have 20 days to respond to the seizures and prove otherwise, said Ana Barnett, Kellner’s executive assistant.