WASHINGTON, D.C.- Attorney General John Ashcroft today announced the unsealing of a indictment against Otto Herrera-Garcia that charges him with conspiring to violate U.S. drug trafficking laws. Herrera-Garcia is alleged to be one of the largest drug traffickers in Central America, and was arrested in Mexico on April 21, 2004.
Herrera-Garcia has been designated a Consolidated Priority Organization Target by federal law enforcement agencies and the Attorney General. Herrera-Garcia is one of 41 people on the Consolidated Priority Organization Target list. This list was designed to identify the most significant international drug traffickers and money launderers in the world. As a result of the creation of this list, federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors are able to focus their resources on pursuing these highest priority targets.
The superseding indictment involving Herrera-Garcia, returned by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on October 30, 2003, was the result of a three year investigation coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Mexican AFI, and law enforcement agencies in El Salvador and Guatemala.
The indictment against Herrera-Garcia and four other defendants allege that from approximately March 1996 to October 2003, the conspirators were responsible for smuggling thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia through El Salvador to Guatemala and then to Mexico for ultimate importation into the United States. In addition to coordinating, and transporting the cocaine, members of the conspiracy were also alleged to be responsible for collecting and transporting narcotics-related proceeds to further the organization’s goals. The indictment notes that the investigation linked the organization to five loads of cocaine, totaling more than 6500 kilograms, that were destined for the United States. In April 2003, Guatemalan law enforcement agents, working with DEA, seized over $14,000,000 in U.S. currency , narcotics records, and computers from the Herrera-Garcia organization.
The Department of Justice will seek the speedy extradition of Herrera-Garcia to the United States. One other defendant is currently awaiting a trial in Washington, D.C., and a second defendant in the indictment has been arrested in El Salvador and is expected to be extradited to the U.S. within a year. This case has been handled by prosecutors from the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section of the Criminal Division.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations and the defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.