19 April 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Marcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; and Robert J. Joura, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced today the successful extradition of Consolidated Priority Organization Target Elias Cobos-Munoz, a/k/a “Toby,” along with co-defendants, Florentino Riviera-Farfan, a/k/a “Tarzan,” and Jorge Ivan Lalinde-Lalinde, a/k/a “El Mono.” The defendants arrived in Miami, Florida from Colombia on April 15, 2005, and this afternoon, made their initial appearances in federal court in Miami before United States Magistrate Judge William C. Turnoff. Magistrate Judge Turnoff ordered the defendants to be detained prior to trial, after the government requested, and the defense stipulated to, such detention. The defendants also were arraigned.
Defendants Cobos-Munoz, Riviera-Farfan, and Lalinde-Lalinde are the first Colombian defendants to be extradited in this multi-year Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation named Operation “Busted Manatee.” They join co-defendants, Bernard Mondou, Ronald Alarie, a/k/a “Ronnie,” Pierre Belanger, a/k/a “Peter,” Daniel Roy, and Tony Roy, who were extradited from Canada in February and March of this year.
The eight (8) defendants, along with thirteen (13) others, were each charged in a Superseding Indictment with one (1) count of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 963 and 952(a), and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 846 and 841(a)(1). In addition, defendants Cobos-Munoz, Lalinde-Lalinde, Mondou, Alarie, Belanger, Daniel Roy, and Tony Roy were each charged with one (1) count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h). Defendants Mondou and Alarie were charged with eleven (11) counts of substantive money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(a). The Superseding Indictment also contains a $145,215,000 money judgment count, which represents the value of the cocaine and currency traceable to the offenses committed by the co-conspirators.
If convicted on either of the drug conspiracy charges, each defendant faces a maximum statutory term of life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $4,000,000. If convicted on any of the money laundering offenses, the defendants face a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of twenty (20) years and a maximum fine of $500,000, or twice the value of the property involved, whichever is greater.
Operation “Busted Manatee” was led by the DEA (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 destination countries and was further coordinated during the past three (3) years with the Special Operations Division, a DEA-led multi-agency program.
Operation “Busted Manatee” targeted the Cobos-Munoz organization, one of the largest alleged cocaine distribution networks operating out of Colombia, Jamaica, Panama, and the Bahamas. The organization, which used maritime and air assets to traffic cocaine into the United States from transhipment points throughout the Carribean, is believed to have smuggled thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the Southern District of Florida since 2000. To date, this Operation has seized more than 4,000 kilograms of cocaine in the United States, Colombia, and the Bahamas, which resulted in at least seven (7) other related indictments in the Southern District of Florida.
Three (3) defendants in this prosecution, Nestor Plata, Carlos Eduardo Rodriguez-Gomez, and Faser Fakih, have pleaded guilty and been sentenced. All three (3) defendants pleaded guilty on December 7, 2004, and were sentenced on February 15, 2005, by United States District Judge Federico Moreno, in Miami. Defendant Plata pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. Judge Moreno sentenced defendant Plata to a term of forty-six (46) months in prison and a term of three (3) years of supervised release and imposed a fine of $10,000. In addition, Judge Moreno entered a forfeiture order in the amount of $620,000 against defendant Plata.
On December 7, 2004, defendant Rodriguez-Gomez pleaded guilty to three (3) counts of money laundering. On February 15, 2005, Judge Moreno sentenced defendant Rodriguez-Gomez to a term of forty-six (46) months in prison and a term of three (3) years of supervised release.
On December 7, 2004, defendant Fakih pleaded guilty to two (2) counts of money laundering. On February 15, 2005, defendant Fakih was sentenced to a term of forty-six (46) months in prison and a term of three (3) years of supervised release.
Mr. Jiménez commended the investigative efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration and all of the law enforcement agencies that have assisted in the investigation. The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Lynn Kirkpatrick.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on .