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Homeland Security

28 August 2003

U.S. Sentences Colombian Drug Lord to More Than 30 Years in Prison

Fabio Ochoa was founding member of notorious Medellin Cartel

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- A federal judge in Miami, Florida, has sentenced Colombian drug lord Fabio Ochoa to more than 30 years (365 months) in prison on drug conspiracy and money-laundering charges, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced.

In an August 27 statement, the DEA said that in the 1980s, Ochoa was a founding member of the notorious Medellin Cartel, "one of the most ruthless and violent criminal organizations the world has ever known." The DEA said Ochoa was once "one of the world's most feared drug kingpins." The MedellĂ­n Cartel was believed responsible for dozens of bombings and hundreds of murders, including those of 500 police officers and 40 judges in Colombia. The cartel was also linked to the deaths of government officials, opposition party leaders and journalists.

Ochoa was extradited by Colombian authorities to the United States in September 2001 to stand trial on charges emanating from a joint DEA-Colombian investigation that shut down a massive cocaine-trafficking organization. The operation revealed Ochoa to be heavily involved in a conspiracy to ship 20 to 30 metric tons of cocaine per month into the United States from 1997-1999. He was found guilty by a Miami federal jury in May 2003.

The DEA said Ochoa, his brothers Jorge and Juan David, along with Pablo Escobar and others, made up the Medellin Cartel, which existed until Escobar's death in 1993.

As part of that cartel, Ochoa and his associates waged a campaign of terror and bribery to pressure the Colombian government to prohibit the extradition of native Colombians. Escobar and several other Medellin leaders, labeled "The Extraditables," took increasingly violent measures to try to force the government to accept legislation that would protect them from extradition.

In December 1990, Ochoa surrendered to Colombian authorities and was in prison from 1991 to 1997. Ochoa ran his drug operation from prison during this time.

The DEA said Ochoa's 1990 surrender led to the demise of the Medellin Cartel.

Former DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson said at the time of Ochoa's extradition in 2001 that the drug lord was "responsible for the destruction of countless lives," adding: "His greed and ruthless behavior are unsurpassed, even among the most notorious traffickers of the 'cartel' era."

Hutchinson, now under secretary for border and transportation security in the Department of Homeland Security, said he applauds the efforts of the "brave men and women" of the Colombian government and national police force in assisting with the extradition of Ochoa to the United States.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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