- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

A federal fugitive considered by U.S. law-enforcement authorities as one of the most violent and dangerous members of Colombia’s Norte Valle cocaine-smuggling ring has been extradited to the United States to stand trial.

Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), yesterday said Jhon Eidelber Cano-Correa, 42, arrived in New York on Friday night, where he was formally placed under arrest by ICE agents.

In 2004, the State Department offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest of Cano-Correa and four other Norte Valle Cartel fugitives. He is charged in a July 2004 indictment in New York with drug and money-laundering violations in connection with the Norte Valle Cartel.

ICE spokeswoman Kadia H. Koroma said Cano-Correa had been flown from Colombia aboard an ICE aircraft, accompanied by ICE agents, and was before U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert yesterday for his initial court appearance.

In October, the Colombian National Police’s “Jungla” unit, working with agents from ICE and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Bogota captured Cano-Correa after a brief firefight that left one Colombian official wounded.

Indictments handed up in federal court in New York in 2003 and 2004 describe the Norte Valle Cartel as Colombia’s largest and most-feared drug organization.

Between 1990 and 2004, the cartel is accused of exporting more than 1.2 million pounds of cocaine worth more than $10 billion to the U.S. At one time, the cartel was thought to be responsible for between 30 and 50 percent of the cocaine entering the United States.

“The extradition of Jhon Eidelber Cano-Correa, a dangerous ICE criminal fugitive, is yet another example of the unprecedented law-enforcement cooperation between U.S. and Colombian authorities,” Mrs. Myers said.

The cartel indictments and Cano-Correa’s arrest resulted from a lengthy investigation that began in the mid-1990s and was conducted by the El Dorado Task Force, an ICE-led anti-money-laundering task force in New York, as well as by ICE agents in Colombia and Colombian authorities with the assistance of the Internal Revenue Service and the DEA.

Miss Koroma said the ICE probe initially focused on money-transmitting businesses in New York, after ICE agents determined that three of the companies were owned by Juan Alberto Monsalve, the Norte Valle Cartel’s chief drug distributor in New York.

She said Monsalve was responsible for distributing thousands of kilograms of cocaine, laundering more than $70 million, and ordering multiple killings. He was arrested by ICE agents, convicted, and in May 2002, sentenced to life in prison.

The ICE investigation continued, revealing the structure of the Norte Valle Cartel and leading to charges in U.S. District Court in New York against its key leaders.

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