Colombian Cocaine Kingpin Gets 30 Years’ Prison, US Attorney Reports

LAWFUEL – Legal Newswire – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and JOHN P. GILBRIDE, Special
Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the United States Drug
Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced that MANUEL FELIPE
SALAZAR-ESPINOSA, a/k/a “Hoover,” designated by the Justice
Department as one of the world’s most significant drug kingpins,
was sentenced this morning to a term of thirty years in prison on
narcotics and money laundering charges. The sentence was imposed
by United States District Judge LEWIS A. KAPLAN in Manhattan
federal court.

SALAZAR-ESPINOSA had been extradited from Colombia in
August 2006, after being arrested there by Colombian authorities
the previous year. In June 2007, he was tried before a federal
jury in Manhattan on cocaine importation conspiracy and money
laundering conspiracy charges, and convicted on all counts.
According to documents filed in this case and the proof at trial:

SALAZAR-ESPINOSA conspired with Mexican cocaine cartel
leaders to import ton-quantities of Colombian cocaine, through
Mexico, to the United States on a weekly basis, and also assisted
in the laundering of $12 million to $14 million in narcotics
proceeds per week from 2002 to 2005. SALAZAR-ESPINOSA had been
engaged in the international cocaine trade since the 1980s, and
was arrested in Colombia in 2005 while planning a 1.3-ton cocaine
shipment destined for the United States.

That shipment, which was concealed in the arm of a crane, was seized in Panama in July 2005. When he was arrested, SALAZAR-ESPINOSA was also planning another shipment of 5 tons of cocaine that was to be flown from
Colombia to Mexico and then transported to New York City.
Prior to his arrest and conviction, SALAZAR-ESPINOSA
had been designated by the United States Government as a
Consolidated Priority Organization Target (“CPOT”). The CPOT
list, compiled by the Department of Justice in 2002 and updated
annually, targets the world’s most significant command and
control organizations involved in the narcotics and money
laundering trade.

Mr. GARCIA praised the investigative efforts of the
DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force — which includes
agents and officers of the DEA, New York City Police Department,
and New York State Police — and the DEA’s Bogota Country Office
and Merida Resident Office, and thanked the United States
Marshals Service for its work in effectuating the extradition.
Mr. GARCIA also expressed his gratitude to the Colombian Attorney
General’s Office and Colombian National Police, as well as the
Colombian Department of Administrative Security, for their
cooperation in the investigation, and foreign law enforcement
authorities in Panama and Mexico for their assistance in this

The terms of SALAZAR-ESPINOSA’s extradition from
Colombia required the United States to seek sentence of a term of
years, rather than a life sentence. In sentencing SALAZARESPINOSA,
who is 58 years of age, to a thirty-year term, Judge
KAPLAN noted that SALAZAR-ESPINOSA came from an upper-middle
class background, and made a “conscious decision to become a
major narcotics trafficker for pretty much the rest of his life.”

Judge KAPLAN noted that SALAZAR-ESPINOSA entered the narcotics
trade “not because he knew of no other life, … but because it
was an economic proposition, it was a way to make even more
money, vast amounts of money,” and that SALAZAR-ESPINOSA was a
“rational economic actor” in that he attempted to insulate
himself from criminal responsibility in the United States by
working with others who would complete the importation of the
cocaine SALAZAR-ESPINOSA conspired to import. Judge KAPLAN
characterized this as an “egregious miscalculation,” and found
significant the “sheer size of the defendant’s activities,”
including the “huge volume of drugs” and tens of millions of
dollars in narcotics proceeds for which the defendant was
responsible. He also found that the defendant posed a “major
recidivism risk” since “the only life the defendant knows is
international drug trafficking.” Judge KAPLAN concluded by
noting the defendant’s age, and that “consistent with the spirit”
of the Government’s assurances to the Colombian government not to
seek a life sentence, he declined to impose a sentence that would
“inevitably be a life sentence.”

Mr. GARCIA stated: “Today’s sentence puts an end to the
20-year criminal career of Hoover Salazar, one of the world’s
most significant cocaine kingpins, who moved tons of cocaine and
tens of millions of dollars in drug money. Salazar could not
have been stopped without the outstanding work of DEA agents in
New York and abroad, and our law enforcement partners in
Colombia, Panama and Mexico.”

Mr. GILBRIDE stated: “For years, Manuel ‘Hoover’
Salazar-Espinosa operated a drug trafficking organization with
impunity. Today’s sentencing proves that international law
enforcement can identify and bring to justice individuals who
think they will never have to pay a price for their illegal
activity. DEA stands firmly with our local and international law
enforcement partners in this battle against drugs. From the
kingpins to the street dealers our combined goal is to dismantle
these drug trafficking organizations and put them out of

Assistant United States Attorneys IRIS LAN, ERIC

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