10 March 2003
DEA Announces Colombian Heroin Traffickers Arraigned in U.S. Court
(U.S. drug agency praises Colombian government's cooperation in case)
Washington -- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has
announced that two leaders of a Colombian drug-trafficking
organization have been arraigned in a federal court in Detroit,
Michigan, after being indicted on charges of conspiring to transport
and distribute two kilograms of high-purity heroin from Colombia to
the Detroit area.
A DEA spokesman said March 10 that the two accused Colombians, Maria
Gladys Sandoval, leader of the drug gang, and her second-in-command,
Orlando Reinosa-Castrillon, were indicted on U.S. federal narcotics
violations by a grand jury in March 2000.
It took more than a year to successfully extradite Sandoval from
Colombia to the United States following her arrest in August 2001,
while Reinosa-Castrillon was arrested in Panama, where he had been
living under an assumed name, before being extradited to Detroit. The
DEA described the extraditions as a "major accomplishment in stemming
the flow of South American heroin into the Detroit area." Seven other
alleged members of the drug organization are also in U.S. custody, the
Sandoval's gang was accused of hiding the heroin inside condoms and
swallowing them before boarding planes going into the United States.
Couriers from the gang also allegedly hid the drugs in girdles,
wallets, and the soles of shoes.
Michael Braun, special agent in charge of DEA's Detroit Field
Division, said that his agency "is extremely grateful to the
government of Colombia for [its] cooperation in extraditing these
defendants to Detroit to face a host of significant drug-trafficking
David Jacobson, DEA's spokesman in Detroit, said that "this is the
first time in recent history we've gotten a successful extradition of
a major [drug] target" into his city. He added that "usually, we're
able to get the couriers, but the heads of these organizations often
remain safely in their own countries. But this time, we were able to
get the top people."
Rogelio Guevara, DEA's chief of operations, said in U.S. congressional
testimony in December 2002 that high-purity, low-priced Colombian
heroin dominates the heroin market in the eastern United States.
Although abuse of cocaine and marijuana is far more prevalent than
heroin abuse, Guevara said heroin's highly addictive nature and recent
increases in its potency and availability "make it one of the more
significant challenges we in the law enforcement community face."
Guevara told the House Committee on Government Reform that DEA has
directed significant enforcement and intelligence assets to identify,
investigate, and dismantle Colombian heroin-trafficking organizations
and will continue to do so in the coming months and years.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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