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25 arrested on drug trafficking charges

25 arrested on drug trafficking charges

POSTED: Friday, February 12, 2010 - 5:33pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 12:43pm

DALLAS – U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced today that 25 alleged members of a Colombian drug trafficking organization have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Texas.

The indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury on Oct. 15, 2009, and unsealed on Feb. 5, 2010, charges the 25 defendants with drug trafficking crimes, including conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States and manufacturing and distribution of cocaine to be imported into the United States. According to the indictment, the defendants are alleged to be members of a drug trafficking organization responsible for sending cocaine from Colombia to the United States using Central America and Mexico as a transshipment point.

To date, this investigation has seized 7.5 tons of cocaine and $4.25 million in assets.

The Colombian National Police (CNP) began executing arrest warrants on Feb. 8, 2010 in Colombia and Panama. Of the 25 defendants, 21 are now in custody. If convicted, they face up to life in federal prison.

"We cannot sit back and allow these drug trafficking organizations, wherever they are located, to transport tons of cocaine to the United States, with impunity," said U.S. Attorney Bales. "In this operation, the agents, both American and Colombian, are literally reaching across hemispheres to strike a blow against a criminal organization that is a vital lifeline to several Mexican drug cartels. We are proud to be part of what we believe to be an historical effort in the war on drugs."

“Operation ‘No Fly Zone’ represents an unprecedented level of international law enforcement cooperation between the Colombian National Police (CNP) and North Texas law enforcement agencies,” said James L. Capra, Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “The complete dismantlement of this criminal organization based in Colombia will severely impact the ability of drug traffickers to transport cocaine from the jungles of Colombia, via Central America and Mexico, to the United States using small aircraft.”

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration HIDTA Group 1 and the Colombian National Police. HIDTA Group 1 consists of: the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Coppell Police Department, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, the Dallas County Sheriff's Office, the Dallas Police Department, the Ellis County Sheriff's Office, the Internal Revenue Service, the Irving Police Department, the Richardson Police Department, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Waxahachie Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heather Rattan and Camelia Lopez. Provisional arrest warrants, the legal instruments which triggered the enforcement actions and arrests in Colombia, were prepared with the assistance of the DOJ Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs in Washington D.C.

An indictment is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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