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Former fugitive Cali cartel member sentenced to more than 16 years in prison

MIAMI - A former member of the Colombian Cali Cartel convicted of drug trafficking and money laundering was sentenced on Jan. 15 following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Jorge Solano, aka Eugenio Arocho, was sentenced by U.S. Federal District Judge William M. Hoeveler to 200 months in prison to be followed by five years supervised release.

Solano previously pleaded guilty to four counts related to the importation of approximately 50,000 kilograms of cocaine into Miami from 1988 to 1991. Specifically, Solano pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to import cocaine, importation of approximately 12,250 kilograms of cocaine in September 1991, and money laundering conspiracy.

Solano was a member of the Cali Cartel at its peak in the 1980s and 1990s, when the cartel was responsible for distribution of a majority of the world's cocaine supply. During 1990 and 1991, he was the cartel member in Miami primarily responsible for coordinating the importation of cartel cocaine from Venezuela into South Florida hidden in drums of asphalt and concrete posts.

On Aug. 27, 1991, 14 containers of concrete posts arrived at the Port of Miami onboard the M/V Mercandian Continent from Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. Shipping invoices and bills of lading submitted to the former U.S. Customs Service (USCS) listed Tranca and/or Eugenio Arocho as the importer of record.

A USCS inspector discovered metal sleeves containing kilos of cocaine concealed in the centers of the concrete posts. Based on this information, law enforcement initiated an investigation. In December 1991, following the search of Cali Cartel warehouses in Miami used as part of the smuggling route, Solano fled to Cali in an effort to avoid being arrested. Solano remained a fugitive for the next 17 years.

In October 2008, Solano was arrested in Togo, Africa, on suspicion of cocaine trafficking. United States authorities learned of Solano's arrest from Togolese authorities. With the cooperation of authorities in Togo and Ghana, ICE special agents traveled to Africa to bring Solano to the United States to face prosecution.

The prosecution is the result of a joint investigation by ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami and the DEA Miami Field Office. The investigation ultimately resulted in the conviction of more than 100 members of the Cali Cartel, the seizure of large amounts of cocaine and drug proceeds in the United States and in Colombia and the dismantling of the Cali Cartel.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Morales.