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Colombian extradited to US on narcotics trafficking charges

NEW YORK - A 45-year-old man from Colombia, and a former commander in a right-wing Colombian paramilitary drug organization, was extradited to the United States on charges of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States and to engage in maritime narcotics smuggling following a New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force investigation.

According to the indictment and documents filed in the extradition proceedings, from 1999 through March 2009, Eder Pedraza-Peña, served as a commander in a right-wing paramilitary drug organization and terrorist group, then called the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) and now known as Bandas Criminales Emergentes, or BACRIMS. 

For years, the AUC's main political objective has been to defeat the left-wing Colombian terrorist group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC). The AUC, which is organized in individual "bloques" that control separate areas of Colombia, financed its terrorist activities through the proceeds of cocaine trafficking in AUC-controlled regions. Pedraza-Peña collected taxes from narcotics traffickers who transported cocaine through the "bloque" he controlled.

Pedraza-Peña also trafficked in cocaine, some of which was destined for Central America, Mexico, and ultimately the United States.   In January 2009, he arranged for a shipment of more than 2,000 kilograms of cocaine that was later seized by the U.S. Coast Guard in international waters off the coast of Jamaica. He was arrested by Colombian authorities on Oct. 11, 2009.

James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York stated: "This investigation shows ICE's resolve to pursue those who think they can ignore our nation's drug smuggling laws. We will continue to aggressively investigate those involved in illicit drug activity to ensure that they face justice."

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: "As we have charged, Pedraza-Peña was a ringleader of one of the most vicious and deadly narco-terrorist groups in South America.  He bankrolled his organization, in part, by allegedly smuggling their poison into the United States. Today's extradition demonstrates once again that we will work seamlessly with our law enforcement partners both here and around the world to thwart those who are exporting their illegal trade and to prosecute them to the full extent of the law."

DEA Special Agent-in-Charge John P. Gilbride said: "Eder Pedraza-Peña is charged with smuggling tons of cocaine into the United States and today he will face the consequences of his illegal enterprise. Time and time again, law enforcement investigates and identifies those individuals behind the scenes who are responsible for organizing illegal actions such as drug trafficking. This extradition is a statement for international, local, state and federal law enforcement that we will not tolerate drug trafficking in our communities and will continue to fully identify and investigate those who make millions off the sale of poison."

The New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force is composed of agents and officers of ICE HSI, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York City Police Department, U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York State Police and the U.S. Coast Guard.