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Leader of Colombian Narco-Terrorist Organization Gets 20 Year Prison Term For Cocaine Importation

Lawfuel.com – Law Newswire
PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, announced that JORGE ENRIQUE
RODRIGUEZ MENDIETA, a/k/a “Ivan Vargas,” a high-ranking leader of
the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia, or “FARC”) was sentenced today to 244
months in prison for conspiring to import ton-quantities of
cocaine into the United States. The FARC is Colombia’s main
leftist rebel group and a U.S. State Department-designated
Foreign Terrorist Organization. RODRIGUEZ MENDIETA was sentenced
today by United States District Judge THOMAS F. HOGAN in District
of Columbia federal court.

According to the previously-unsealed Indictment to
which the defendant pleaded guilty, other documents filed in this
case, and statements made in court:

The FARC, which occupies large swaths of territory in
Colombia, is a hierarchical organization which, at its height
during the time of the conspiracy, was comprised of 12,000 to
18,000 members. The FARC is made up of 77 distinct military
units, called Fronts, organized by geographical location. These
in turn are grouped into seven “blocs.” The FARC is led by a
seven-member Secretariat and a 27-member Central General Staff,
or Estado Mayor, responsible for setting the cocaine policies of
the FARC. The FARC is responsible for the production of more
than half the world’s supply of cocaine and nearly two-thirds of
the cocaine imported into the United States, and is the world’s
leading cocaine manufacturer. The FARC initially involved itself
in the cocaine and cocaine paste trade by imposing a “tax” on
individuals involved in every stage of cocaine production.

Later, in the 1990s, recognizing the profit potential, FARC
leadership ordered that the FARC become the exclusive buyer of
the raw cocaine paste used to make cocaine in all areas under
FARC occupation.

In the late 1990s, the FARC leadership, including
RODRIGUEZ MENDIETA, met and voted unanimously in favor of a
number of resolutions, including resolutions to: expand coca
production in areas of Colombia under FARC control; expand the
FARC’s international distribution routes; increase the number of
crystallization labs in which cocaine paste would be converted
into cocaine; appoint members within each Front to be in charge
of coca production; raise prices that the FARC would pay to
campesinos (peasant farmers) from whom they purchased cocaine
paste; and mandate that better chemicals be used to increase the
quality of cocaine paste.

In late 2001 or early 2002, the FARC leadership,
including RODRIGUEZ MENDIETA, participated in a meeting in which
they further resolved, among other things, to: increase cocaine
trafficking routes overseas, including to the United States;
establish better ways to exchange cocaine and cocaine paste for
weapons; and to pay more to campesinos for cocaine paste.
RODRIGUEZ MENDIETA, 47, served as the Commander of the
FARC’s 24th Front and as a member of the FARC’s Estado Major. In
that capacity, he directed the purchase of hundreds of thousands
of kilograms of cocaine paste, and transmitted billions of
Colombian pesos in cocaine proceeds to higher-ranking FARC
officials. Among other things, RODRIGUEZ MENDIETA conspired with
others to manufacture and distribute thousands of tons of cocaine
in Colombia, with the knowledge and intent that such cocaine
would be imported into the United States.

RODRIGUEZ MENDIETA was arrested by Colombian
authorities in late 2004 and extradited to the United States on
November 1, 2007. On December 16, 2009, during his guilty plea
proceeding, RODRIGUEZ MENDIETA acknowledged that from
approximately 1998 through early October 2004, he was the
commander of the 24th Front of the FARC and that he led and
directed other members of the 24th Front in the manufacture and
distribution of thousands of kilograms of cocaine, knowing and
intending that at least some of this cocaine would be imported
into the United States.
* * *
“Jorge Enrique Rodriguez Mendieta for years occupied
one of the FARC’s top leadership roles, overseeing the
manufacture and distribution of thousands of kilograms of cocaine
and participating in the policy-making of the FARC. Bringing the
leadership of the FARC to justice is critical to our fight
against narco-terrorism that threatens the safety and security of
the United States. This Office will continue to work with its
local, state, federal, and international partners to combat
criminal organizations that undermine the rule of law,” said
United States Attorney PREET BHARARA.

The investigation resulting in these charges was led by
the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of
New York, working with the New York Organized Crime Drug
Enforcement Strike Force (which is comprised of agents and
officers of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, the
United States Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation
Division, the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, and the New York State Police) and the DEA’s
Bogota, Colombia, Country Office. The investigation, conducted
under the auspices of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime
Drug Enforcement Task Force Program, involved unprecedented
cooperation from the Colombian Military, the Colombian National
Police, and the Colombian Fiscalia. Mr. BHARARA praised all the
law enforcement partners involved in the investigation, and
thanked the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs,
as well as U.S. Department of Justice Attachés in Bogota for
their involvement in the extradition process.
This case is being prosecuted in the District of
Columbia by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern
District of New York. Special Assistant United States Attorneys
ERIC SNYDER, PABLO QUIÑONES, and RANDALL JACKSON are in charge of
the prosecution.
10-084 ###

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