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Homeland Security

21 April 2005

Colombian Drug Traffickers Extradited to United States

United States alleges suspects are part of large cocaine-distribution network

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Three accused Colombian drug traffickers have been extradited from Colombia to the United States, according to U.S. authorities.

In an April 18 statement, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami said the Colombians are accused of being part of the Cobos-Munoz organization, allegedly one of the largest cocaine-distribution networks operating from Colombia, Jamaica, Panama and the Bahamas.

The organization used boats and airplanes to distribute cocaine into the United States from shipment points throughout the Caribbean, according to authorities.  The accused are believed to have smuggled thousands of kilograms of cocaine into South Florida since the year 2000, authorities said.

U.S. authorities said the defendants, Elias Cobos-Munoz, Florentino Riviera-Farfan, and Jorge Ivan Lalinde-Lalinde, were extradited in an operation code-named "Busted Manatee.”  The three Colombians join other accused drug traffickers, who -- under Busted Manatee -- were arrested and extradited from Canada to the United States earlier in 2005.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said Cobos-Munoz was placed, in October 2003, on the U.S. Consolidated Priority Organization Target List, which identifies significant drug and money-laundering organizations threatening the United States.

The consolidated list is overseen by what is called the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program, which combines the resources of seven U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the departments of Treasury, Justice and Homeland Security.

To date, Busted Manatee has seized more than 4,000 kilograms of cocaine in the United States, Colombia and the Bahamas, and resulted in at least seven other related indictments in South Florida.

DEA Administrator Karen Tandy has described those arrested in the operation as "modern-day pirates of the Caribbean who prey on the vulnerable, plunder for profit, and intimidate through violence."  Tandy said those arrested were responsible for distributing three metric tons of cocaine into the United States each month, amounting to at least 10 percent of the U.S. cocaine supply.

The DEA led Busted Manatee with help from the Colombian National Police, the Royal Bahamas Police Force/Drug Enforcement Unit, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Panama Judicial Police and other organizations.

Busted Manatee is part of the DEA's Caribbean Initiative, targeting South American drug organizations that have used the Caribbean corridor to ship drugs into the United States, Canada and other destination countries.

(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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