Jhon Jairo Cruz Trejos, a/k/a “Mellizo,” Attempted to Broker Cocaine-Financed Weapons Deals Involving Highly Enriched Uranium, Missiles, and Machine Guns
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that JHON JAIRO CRUZ TREJOS, a/k/a “Mellizo,” a citizen of Colombia, was sentenced today to 13 years in prison for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and a related weapons offense. CRUZ TREJOS’s conviction on these charges resulted from his efforts to broker weapons deals on behalf of Colombian paramilitary groups, including exchanging cocaine for surface-to-air missiles and machine guns, and attempting to obtain highly enriched uranium to be used in an attack on a United States Embassy. CRUZ TREJOS pled guilty to cocaine importation and weapons charges in November 2015 before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, who imposed today’s sentence.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Jhon Jairo Cruz Trejos conspired to broker multimillion-dollar cocaine deals on behalf of Colombian terrorist organizations. Cruz Trejos negotiated those deals to fund the purchase of machine guns and surface-to-air missiles, and he tried to obtain uranium for a ‘dirty bomb’ to be used against a U.S. embassy. For his serious crimes, Cruz Trejos has been sentenced to 13 years in prison.”
According to the allegations contained in the superseding Indictment to which CRUZ TREJOS pled guilty, other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made during court proceedings:
Beginning in 2010, CRUZ TREJOS and others attempted to broker a weapons deal involving two Colombian paramilitary groups, which are also U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations: the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (“FARC”) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (“ELN”). CRUZ TREJOS expressed interest in purchasing highly enriched uranium, missiles, machine guns, grenades, and explosives on behalf of the FARC and the ELN. During meetings in February and March 2010, for example, CRUZ TREJOS and another individual explained that the FARC wanted to use uranium to manufacture a “dirty bomb” targeting the United States Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia. CRUZ TREJOS also stated that FARC personnel planned to use the weapons in attacks on military bases and naval ships in an effort to disrupt drug interdiction efforts by the governments of Colombia and the United States.
During a recorded meeting in Barbados in December 2010, CRUZ TREJOS and others discussed a multimillion-dollar transaction involving the uranium, as well as 480 missiles, remote-detonated explosives, grenades, and Kalashnikov rifles for use in paramilitary “incursions.” In late 2011, Franklin Ramos Sanchez, who also was a charged defendant in this case, later told a confidential source (the “CS”), who was acting at the direction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), that the FARC leadership was evaluating the terms of the deal and considering other options. In April 2013, Sanchez told the CS that the FARC had postponed its plan to attack the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.
In September 2012, Sanchez escorted the CS to a remote part of Colombia and introduced him to an ELN commander. The ELN commander expressed interest in exchanging cocaine for weapons, and explained that CRUZ TREJOS would represent him in the transaction going forward. In April 2013, CRUZ TREJOS discussed transporting cocaine to the United States, with the expectation that the proceeds would be used to pay for the weapons. Between June 2013 and February 2014, CRUZ TREJOS and Sanchez negotiated terms on a deal that was to involve financing the purchase of at least 60 AK-101 machine guns, 30 Dragunov rifles, 10 PKM machine guns, and several Igla surface-to-air missiles through the importation and distribution of cocaine in the United States. In furtherance of the deal, on November 22, 2013, CRUZ TREJOS provided 17 kilograms of cocaine and the equivalent of approximately $43,000 to another confidential source acting at the direction of the FBI in Barranquilla, Colombia.
On February 13, 2014, CRUZ TREJOS and Sanchez were arrested at a mall in Cartagena, Colombia. In a post-arrest statement, CRUZ TREJOS admitted that he had previously provided cocaine to an associate with the expectation that the proceeds would be used to purchase AK-101s, Dragunovs, and Igla missiles, and that he further planned to sell the weapons to either the FARC or the ELN.
CRUZ TREJOS and Sanchez were subsequently extradited to the United States. CRUZ TREJOS arrived in the Southern District of New York on or about April 30, 2015.
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On November 5, 2015, CRUZ TREJOS pled guilty to all three Counts of the Superseding Indictment: (1) conspiring to import five or more kilograms of cocaine into the United States; (2) distributing five or more kilograms of cocaine, knowing and intending that the narcotics would be imported into the United States; and (3) conspiring to use and carry machine guns during and in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.
In addition to his prison term, CRUZ TREJOS, 44, was sentenced to five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $300 special assessment.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. Mr. Bharara also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and the Colombian National Police.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III and Edward Y. Kim are in charge of the prosecution.