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10 August – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – R. Alexander Ac…

10 August – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, announced that defendant, Elias Cobos-Munoz, a/k/a “Toby,” pled guilty today to one count of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 963 and 952(a).

During the plea, Cobos-Munoz admitted to having supervised the transportation of cocaine loads, to having invested money in the cocaine loads, and to having acted as liasion between drug organization members in the United States, Colombia, Jamaica, and the Bahamas between July 2000 and June 2004. Cobos-Munoz also admitted that he was involved in the attempted importation into South Florida of 1,032 kilograms of cocaine in January 2002. This shipment was successfully intercepted by agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement officials.

The charges against Cobos-Munoz were the result of a long-term Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) investigation, entitled “Operation Busted Manatee,” led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (Miami, Cartagena, Ottawa, Nassau, and Kingston Offices), with assistance from the Florida Highway Patrol, the South Florida Money Laundering Strike Force, the Colombian National Police, the Royal Bahamas Police Force/Drug Enforcement Unit, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Panama Judicial Police and prosecutors from the Asset Forfeiture Money Laundering Section of the Department of Justice. Operation “Busted Manatee” is part of 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 countries.

According to court records, the Cobos-Munoz drug trafficking organization was one of the largest cocaine distribution networks operating out of Colombia, Jamaica, Panama, and the Bahamas. The organization used maritime and air assets to traffic cocaine into the United States from transhipment points throughout the Carribean to smuggle thousands of kilograms of cocaine into South Florida since 2000.

To date, this OCDETF operation has seized more than 6,000 kilograms of cocaine in the United States, Colombia, and the Bahamas, resulting in at least seven other related Indictments in the Southern District of Florida.

Cobos-Munoz is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Court Judge Federico Moreno on October 19, 2005. He faces a minimum mandatory term of imprisonment of ten (10) years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment, plus a fine of $4,000,000.

Four additional co-defendants, Nestor Plata, Carlos Eduardo Rodriguez-Gomez, Faser Fakih and Tony Roy have already pled guilty and have been sentenced. Co-defendant Pierre Belanger also entered a plea of guilty today and will likewise be sentenced on October 19, 2005. Seven additional defendants are currently scheduled for trial on September 6, 2005.

U.S. Attorney Acosta stated, “This case successfully disrupted the organization and operation of a large and powerful drug trafficking network. Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated law enforcement agents, our streets are safer for our children. Stopping the flow of narcotics into our shores remains one of our highest priorities.”

British MP George Galloway and his opponent the Daily Telegraph will leave no stone unturned to sort out what could be a spectacular libel case.