NEW YORK — After spending years in hiding, the Colombian leader of a cocaine trafficking conspiracy responsible for manufacturing hundreds of tons of cocaine annually in Colombia, trafficking it to various parts of the world, including the United States, and laundering tens of millions of dollars in proceeds from that narcotics trafficking activity was extradited to the United States Tuesday.
Daniel Barrera Barrera, aka Loco, 44, was arrested following an international law enforcement operation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
In March 2010, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Barrera as a "Special Designated Narcotics Trafficker," pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. Barrera was arrested in Venezuela Sept.18. Thereafter, he was sent to Colombia, from where the United States sought his extradition. The extradition of Barrera is the result of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation led by the DEA and HSI. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation's illegal drug supply.
HSI Executive Assistant Director James Dinkins said, "Barrera and his co-conspirators stand accused of running one of the largest cocaine trafficking operations in history. His extradition to the United States represents a major victory for the rule of law. While Mr. Barrera may have thought he was safe hiding and conducting his illicit activities in South American countries, an international team of law enforcement agencies worked tirelessly and cooperatively towards bringing him to justice."
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said, "For more than a decade, as alleged, Daniel Barrera Barrera has operated at the center of a truly evil web spun between his narcotics trafficking organization and two violent and sworn enemy terrorist organizations. By purchasing raw cocaine paste from the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC), which he processed in laboratories in areas controlled by the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), to whom he paid fees, Barrera's behemoth cocaine organization reached an annual production rate of upwards of 400 tons, enriching itself and the two terrorist organizations it paid off, as the indictment describes. This was truly cocaine with blood in its background. With his arrival in the United States, Barrera must now answer for his alleged crimes, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners, both here and abroad, to prosecute him and other alleged titans of the transnational drug trade."
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch said, "As alleged in the three indictments on which he was extradited, Daniel "Loco" Barrera was the kingpin of a stunningly prolific Colombian drug cartel, which flooded the globe with its deadly product. Barrera also allegedly wrought destruction closer to home, working with not one but two terrorist organizations responsible for decades of death and destruction in Colombia, all to ensure his deadly business ran smoothly. His extradition to the United States marks the fall of the last don of an organization marked by its worldwide reach, ruthless criminality and staggering profits. This investigation exemplifies the global cooperation necessary to combat international drug traffickers and our commitment to dismantle these criminal organizations from the highest levels down."
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo A. Ferrer said, "Daniel "Loco" Barrera's arrest and extradition is the direct result of strong international cooperation with Colombian authorities. It also reflects the hard work and perseverance of our law enforcement partners – both at home and abroad – whose dedicated efforts led to the capture of one of the world's most notorious drug traffickers. While Barrera evaded capture for several years, the time has finally come for him to answer for his crimes and face justice. As this case confirms, the United States will never tire in its pursuit of those who profit from the illegal drug trade."
DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said, "Barrera allegedly worked with terrorist organizations in operating his drug trafficking syndicate, becoming one of the most prolific drug traffickers of the past twenty years. Charged with manufacturing upwards of 400 tons of cocaine a year, Barrera's alleged impact on the global trade of cocaine was immense – but so was DEA's response. Thanks to the cooperative efforts of our Colombian and U.S. law enforcement counterparts, Barrera's criminal career is over as he now faces charges that may bring him a life behind bars."
NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, "If any one case epitomizes the nexus between terrorism and drug trafficking and the destructive impact on Colombian society, this is it; not to mention the crime and suffering cocaine addiction has fueled on the demand-side of the equation in the streets of New York. Barrera's extradition is a milestone, and we're indebted to the detectives, agents, and prosecutors who've made it possible."
Since 1998, Barrera has run a cocaine manufacturing and trafficking syndicate that processed approximately 30,000 kilograms of raw cocaine base each month into about the same amount of cocaine powder – in total, up to approximately 400 tons of cocaine annually.
Barrera purchased the raw cocaine base or paste from the designated terrorist group, the FARC, which has been the world's largest supplier of cocaine and which has engaged in bombings, massacres, kidnappings and other acts of violence within Colombia.
Barrera converted the raw cocaine into powder at laboratories he owned and operated in an area of Colombia controlled by the since demobilized terrorist group, the AUC. For years, the AUC's main political objective was to defeat the FARC in armed conflict, and it financed its terrorist activities through the proceeds of cocaine trafficking in AUC-controlled regions of Colombia.
Although Barrera purchased raw materials for cocaine production from the FARC, he was able to maintain his network of cocaine-processing laboratories in AUC-controlled territory, in part by paying monthly taxes to the AUC. The fees Barrera paid to the AUC also allowed him to safely move the processed cocaine through and out of Colombia, into locations on four continents – including into the U.S.
Barrera reaped tens of millions of dollars of profits from cocaine trafficking, which he laundered through illicit means.
The FARC and the AUC are both designated by the U.S. Department of State as foreign terrorist organizations.
Barrera is charged in the Southern District of New York with one count of conspiring to distribute and manufacture cocaine knowing it would be unlawfully imported into the United States. On that count, Barrera faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Barrera is charged in the Eastern District of New York with one count of conspiracy to launder money. On that count, Barrera faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Barrera is charged in the Southern District of Florida with one count of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and one count of conspiring to manufacture and distribute cocaine knowing that it would be unlawfully imported into the United States. On those counts, Barrera faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The investigation was completed under the auspices of the OCDETF, working in cooperation with HSI New York's El Dorado Task Force, the DEA's Bogota Country Office, the DEA's Caracas Country Office, the DEA's Miami Field Division, the DEA's New York Drug Enforcement Task Force – which is comprised of agents and officers of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, and the New York State Police – as well as HSI Bogota. The Colombian National Police, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs also provided considerable assistance.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictments are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.