Charges Brought Against Reputed Colombian Drug Leader
NEW YORK (AP) _ Five men were indicted on federal charges they plotted to import thousands of pounds of cocaine, including a reputed Colombian drug lord who made death threats against Mayor Edward I. Koch, officials say.
The indictment Tuesday of Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha and four others ″reaches into the highest echelon of the multibillion-dollar Medellin cartel,″ said U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney.
According to the indictment by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn, the five conspired with undercover agents posing as drug brokers to bring 2,200 pounds of cocaine into the New York area every eight days.
Robert Stutman, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s office here, said his agency received reports from Colombia that Rodriguez Gacha had made death threats against Koch, Stutman and other law enforcement officials.
Three Colombians arrested here Thursday had an electronic device that could have been used to set off explosives by remote control, officials said. Informers identified the three as assassins.
Because of insufficient evidence, one was released and two were held only on charges of violating immigration law.
″If I am not safe, who is?″ said Koch. ″That is what is horrifying.″ ″The more they threaten, the more we’ll go after them,″ said Stutman, who described Rodriguez Gacha as the most active member of the cocaine cartel based in the northern Colombian city of Medellin.
It is unlikely Rodriguez Gacha will be prosecuted, federal authorities said, because his South American homeland does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.
Another defendant identified as a lieutenant in the cartel, Oscar Vegas, also lives in Colombia.
The other three defendants, identified as employees of the cartel’s New York operation, were arrested July 23 when federal agents seized 1,350 pounds of cocaine near La Guardia Airport, the first shipment in the sting operation.
Rodriguez Gacha; Vegas; Jaime Posado, 28, of Queens; Jaime Pineda, 29, of Queens; and Juan Luis Velez, 26, were charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to life in prison and fined $6 million each.
A separate indictment in Miami charged Rodriguez Gacha and six others with one count of conspiracy to import cocaine.