6 December 2004 – LAWFUEL – First with law news – Attorney General John Ashcroft; Marcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Jesus Torres, Special Agent in Charge, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and Robert J. Joura, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced today that defendant, Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela, made his initial appearance in federal court in Miami, Florida, before United States Magistrate Judge William J. Turnoff, following his extradition to Miami from Colombia to face narcotics trafficking and money laundering charges pending against him in the Southern District of Florida.
Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela and his brother, Miguel Rodriguez-Orejuela, both of whom are named in the Attorney General’s Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) list, and are the alleged leaders and founders of the infamous Cali Cartel, are named in the Superseding Indictment, along with nine (9) other defendants. The other named defendants are William Rodriguez-Abadia, Luis Eduardo Cuartas-Soriano, Guillermo Restrepo Lara, Heriberto Patino-Rios, Luis Ocampo-Fomeque, German Navarro Palau, Daniel Serrano Gomez, Harold Velez-Restrepo, and Luis Evelio Restrepo Bermudes. Defendants Miguel Rodriguez-Orejuela, Luis Eduardo Cuartas-Soriano, Harold Velez-Restrepo, and Daniel Serrano Gomez are incarcerated in Colombia.
The Superseding Indictment charges all of the named defendants with conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The Superseding Indictment charges that from 1990 until July 2002, the defendants conspired to import more than 200,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States, and conspired to possess with intent to distribute that cocaine. The defendants imported and distributed cocaine hidden within concrete posts, frozen vegetables, pumpkins, lumber, ceramic tile, coffee, chlorine cylinders, and other materials. The Superseding Indictment also charges defendants Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela, as well as Miguel Rodriguez-Orejuela, William Rodriguez-Abadia, Luis Eduardo Cuartas-Soriano, German Navarro Palau, Daniel Serrano Gomez, and Harold Velez-Restrepo, with conspiracy to launder money.
In addition to the drug trafficking and money laundering charges, the Superseding Indictment seeks the forfeiture of two billion, one hundred million dollars in United States currency ($2,100,000,000), which represents moneys received in exchange for and used to facilitate the distribution of controlled substances and the amount of money involved in the money laundering conspiracy.
If convicted on the conspiracy drug trafficking charges, the defendants would face a maximum statutory sentence of life imprisonment on each count. If convicted on the conspiracy money laundering charge, the defendants named in that count would face a maximum statutory sentence of twenty (20) years’ imprisonment.
The charged conspiracy encompasses one of the largest narcotics and money laundering organizations ever prosecuted in the United States. The amount of cocaine imported and distributed in the United States, the amount of money laundered, and the violence associated with the various members of the Cartel, make the Cali Cartel one of the most prolific and violent organizations ever prosecuted in the United States.
The prosecution is the result of a fourteen (14) year investigation in the Southern District of Florida known as “Operation Cornerstone,” which began in 1991. “Operation Cornerstone” resulted in the seizure of almost 50,000 kilograms of cocaine and $15,000,000 in United States currency. Prior to the initial Indictment in this case, almost 100 other defendants, including some of the defendants’ criminal defense attorneys, were successfully prosecuted during the course of the investigation. Since 1996, the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida has sought the extradition of Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela. ICE led the investigation resulting in the extradition of Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela, with assistance from the DEA. Colombian law enforcement officials also cooperated in the investigation.
Mr. Jiménez commended the investigative efforts of ICE and DEA. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Laurence Bardfeld. Assistant United States Attorneys Edward Ryan and Lisa Hirsch also have participated in the prosecution of the case.
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 .