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Homeland Security

21 January 2004

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Disrupts Major Colombian Drug Ring

Cali-based organization trafficked in heroin

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced it has disrupted a major heroin-trafficking organization based in Cali, Colombia.

The DEA, working with other U.S., Colombian, and Argentine law enforcement agencies, said it had disrupted the operations of the Orlando Ospina group that smuggled each year more than 449 kilograms (990 pounds) of high-grade heroin into Miami, Florida, for distribution to New York City, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Newark, New Jersey.

The DEA said those people arrested in Colombia during the investigation of the case (dubbed "Operation Streamline") will be extradited to face U.S. prosecution.

DEA Administrator Karen Tandy said in a statement that the "success of this multi-national, multi-jurisdictional investigation exemplifies the cooperation between law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and [with] the governments of Colombia and Argentina."

The arrests mark "yet another step forward in combating the significant problem of narcotics trafficking in the United States," said U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez. "This effort has resulted in the seizure of multi-kilogram quantities of heroin and the prosecution of 11 individuals for their participation in a large-scale heroin operation. We will continue to prosecute such violators vigorously, focusing especially on organizers and other major narco-trafficking targets no matter where they are."

The DEA said the traffickers used both traditional and non-traditional smuggling routes and methods. For example, the traffickers smuggled about 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of heroin from Cali, Colombia, to Nicaragua over a three-month period, by secreting the drugs in drinking straws and placing them in boxes of seafood. From Nicaragua, the drugs were shipped to a seafood company in Miami, where they were received by the Miami cell of the heroin organization headed by Orlando Ospina, and transported to New York City for distribution. The organization used couriers to transport drugs from Cali and Bogota, Colombia, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, to major cities on the U.S. eastern seaboard.

The traffickers also used extraordinary means to transport their narcotics proceeds from the United States back to Colombia. For example, $100 bills were rolled into a cylinder shape, pressed, and then swallowed by couriers. Most of the couriers were able to swallow 1,000 such bills and thus could smuggle $100,000 per trip. The organization also operated a check-cashing business in Cali that could launder about $25,000 a day in proceeds.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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