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Colombian drug trafficker sentenced to 40 years in prison

NEW YORK – A Colombian drug trafficker was sentenced today to 40 years in federal prison and ordered to pay a $5 million fine. The sentence is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

On April 5, 2011, Carlos Arturo Patiño Restrepo, aka Patemuro, was convicted of three counts of conspiracy to violate United States drug laws; possession with intent to distribute, importation and international cocaine distribution.

At trial, the government proved that Patiño, operating in conjunction with the Norte Valle drug cartel, orchestrated multi-ton cocaine shipments to the United States throughout the 1990s, until shortly before his arrest in Colombia in 2007. The government presented testimony from 13 of Patiño's co-conspirators and established that Patiño controlled the area near Viterbo, Colombia, through bribes to Colombian police and ties to paramilitary groups, such as the Auto Defensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In particular, Patiño financed entire regiments, or "blocks," of the AUC to guard the jungle processing labs where the cocaine was manufactured and safeguard the routes used to transport the narcotics out of the country. Both the AUC and the FARC have been designated as terrorist organizations by the United States Department of State.

Patiño and the Norte Valle cartel employed a variety of methods to transport the cocaine from Colombia through Central America and Mexico, before smuggling the drugs across the border into the United States. Initially, Patiño utilized small aircraft flown from clandestine airstrips in Colombia to fly the cocaine straight out of the jungle. However, after United States law enforcement began interdicting the light aircraft, Patiño and the Norte Valle cartel switched to using fishing trawlers, cargo ships and "go-fast" speed boats to launch larger multi-ton loads of cocaine from both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Colombia for receipt by members of the drug cartels of Mexico. The cocaine would then be smuggled into the United States for eventual distribution in such cities as Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and New York.

At a sentencing hearing after the trial, the government also established that Patiño participated in acts of violence, including murder, to further his drug business. These acts were declared to be "aggravating factors," for the sentencing of Patiño.