- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2003

Eleven members of a suspected cocaine cartel in Colombia have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami in a suspected drug-trafficking operation that netted more than $2.1 billion in illicit profits, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Jesus Torres, who heads the ICE office in Miami, said the indictment names two of the founding members of the infamous Cali cartel, brothers Miguel Rodriquez-Orejuela and Gilberto Rodriquez-Orejuela, in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, launder drug proceeds and obstruct justice.

It says the brothers tried to keep individuals from cooperating with authorities by using bribes and death threats.

Mr. Torres said officers from the Colombian Judicial Police, working with ICE agents in Colombia, had arrested three of the suspects by yesterday, and had taken a fourth into custody pending a positive identification. The search for the others continued, he said, adding that the U.S. government would seek extradition of all of the defendants in the case.

The indictment was returned in September, but unsealed yesterday.

According to the indictment, Miguel and Gilberto Rodriquez-Orejuela, who were jailed in Colombia in June and August 1995 after a massive probe by U.S. and Colombian authorities, continued their illegal activities from prison.

At the time of their arrests in 1995, the brothers and their cartel were believed to be the source of 80 percent of the cocaine shipped to the United States. After their jailing, according to the indictment, the brothers were assisted by several key associates in maintaining a significant drug- and money-laundering operation.

“Narco-traffickers present clear and obvious threats to homeland security, importing drugs and violence to American streets,” said ICE Acting Secretary Michael J. Garcia. “This multiyear investigation sends a clear message: ICE agents will go after you anywhere in the world. Prison is no safe haven.”

Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Thomas W. Raffanello, whose Miami office participated in the undercover investigation, said the “strong alliance” between U.S. and Colombian law enforcement “sends a chilling message to major drug-trafficking organizations in Colombia and throughout the world.”

In addition to the Rodriquez-Orejuela brothers, the indictment said those charged included William Rodriguez-Abadia, the eldest son of Miguel Rodriquez-Orejuela, who reportedly controlled the daily activities of the Cali cartel since the jailing of his father and uncle in 1995; and Luis Eduardo Cuartas-Pardo, who served as chief accountant for the cartel, taking over in 1995 after his predecessor was jailed.

Others named in the indictment were Guillermo Restrepo-Lara, chief enforcer for the cartel; Heriberto Patino-Rios, a drug-transportation supervisor; Luis Ocampo-Fomeque, also a drug-transportation supervisor; and German Navarro, who, according to the indictment, is a Colombian lawyer who delivered messages for the imprisoned Rodriquez brothers and coordinated bribery efforts. Also, Daniel Serrano, a money supervisor for the Rodriquez brothers who oversaw the payment of bribes; Harold Velez-Restrepo, who helped purchase residences, offices and facilities for cartel members; and Luis Evelio-Restrepo, who oversaw “stash houses” for cartel members.

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