20 November – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael S. Clemens, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced that Colombian North Valley Cartel cocaine traffickers Juan Carlos Montoya Sanchez and Carlos Felipe Toro Sanchez, a/k/a “Felipe Montoya,” a/k/a “Pipe,” both pled guilty today before United States District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga to conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 963. Sentencing is set before Judge Altonaga for February 16, 2006 at 8:30 am.
Both defendants were arrested in Colombia on December 29, 2003 by the Colombian National Police. Defendants Montoya Sanchez and Toro Sanchez were subsequently extradited from Colombia on May 4, 2005 and April 25, 2005, respectively.
Today’s guilty pleas are the result of a multi-year federal investigation into the Montoya cocaine trafficking organization. As part of the overall investigation, in 2002 the FBI seized and forfeited more than $6 million of Montoya family assets located in South Florida, including two luxury waterfront condominiums and a 2001 80′ Ferretti yacht, valued at approximately $3.5 million.
According to Court documents, defendant Montoya Sanchez was a high-ranking member of the Colombian-based North Valley Cartel cocaine trafficking organization led by his brother, fugitive co-defendant Diego Montoya Sanchez. Co-defendant Diego Montoya Sanchez is on the FBI’s list of ten most wanted fugitives
(www.fbi.gov/mostwant/topten/fugitives/fugitives.htm). The North Valley Cartel is a group of major cocaine traffickers who operate out of region of the Colombian department of Valle del Cauca known as the North Valley.
Court records reveal that defendant Montoya Sanchez was responsible for overseeing the operations of the organization’s cocaine laboratories. His responsibilities included the supervision of the numerous workers at the laboratories and ensuring that the laboratories were equipped with sophisticated processing equipment and were safe from law enforcement and hostile guerrillas. As a security measure, the laboratories would be dismantled and relocated to new locations every few months. In addition, Court documents reflect that Montoya Sanchez and the organization used private airplanes to fly loads of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico and also used large ocean vessels and smaller “go-fast” boats to ship cocaine loads to the United States.
At the time of his arrest in December 2003, Montoya Sanchez was in possession of false Colombian identification documents. Up until the time of his arrest, Montoya Sanchez continued to operate as a high-ranking manager of the Montoya drug organization.
According to Court documents, in approximately 1993 defendant Toro Sanchez started working in the Montoya cocaine laboratories under the supervision of his cousin, co-defendant Juan Carlos Montoya Sanchez. Thereafter, Toro Sanchez began to develop his own drug trafficking routes. Between 1996 and 1998, Toro Sanchez smuggled cocaine out of Colombia into the United States through both passenger and cargo aircraft. In these ventures, Toro Sanchez partnered with various traffickers, including co-defendant Eugenio Montoya, brother of co-defendants Juan Carlos and Diego Montoya Sanchez.
According to Court records, Toro Sanchez later became responsible for the transportation of drug shipments to ports of export. Toro Sanchez also participated in meetings with other drug traffickers, would look for new routes and transporters to work with the organization, and would participate in the collection of drug-related debts. Toro Sanchez continued to participate in the export of multi-ton maritime shipments of cocaine destined for the United States until his arrest in December 2003. At the time of his arrest, Toro Sanchez had in his possession a voice scrambling device and documentation for other electronic espionage equipment.
United States Attorney Acosta stated, “The North Valley Drug Cartel has for years exported drugs and violence to the United States and the international community. The dismantling of these types of international narcotics organization must remain a top priority for South Florida. This case is an example of the successes we can achieve through continued international cooperation.”
“The arrest, extradition and guilty pleas of Juan Carlos Montoya Sanchez and Carlos Felipe Toro Sanchez are a victory for law enforcement both in the United States and Colombia,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville. “I would like to thank our partners in Colombia for their efforts in helping us pursue justice regardless of international borders.”
Special Agent in Charge Michael S. Clemens stated, “The FBI considers the North Valley Cartel in Colombia one of the largest and most violent drug trafficking organizations in operation today. It is a top priority of the FBI to dismantle this organization. Working jointly with the DEA and the cooperation of the Colombian government, we will achieve this goal.”
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service, as well as the United States Marshal’s Service and Colombian law enforcement authorities. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Davis.
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 .