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September 28, 2020Philadelphia, PAUnited StatesEnforcement and Removal

ICE removes former Colombian paramilitary leader

PHILADELPHIA — Officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) removed a Colombian man wanted in his home country by law enforcement authorities for multiple criminal offenses to include homicide, kidnapping and forced displacement of persons.

On Nov. 19, 2015, Rodrigo Tovar-Pupo, 59, a former high-ranking paramilitary leader in the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) or the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, was convicted by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (DCDC) of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine intending and knowing that the cocaine would be unlawfully imported into the United States, on the same date, he was sentenced to 198 months incarceration with credit for time served.

According to admissions made in connection with his plea agreement and during other court proceedings, Tovar-Pupo quickly became a top-level commander in the AUC, and his forces controlled all aspects of cocaine production and transportation in his region, which included the north coast of Colombia. Tovar-Pupo’s organization and its operations were funded through “taxes” he imposed on cocaine manufacturers and traffickers in his region. In exchange, Tovar-Pupo provided protection and security for the manufacturers and traffickers, including securing coastal areas where cocaine was loaded onto vessels for shipment to the United States and elsewhere. Tovar-Pupo knew that shipments of large quantities of cocaine, amounting to more than 1,500 kilograms, were manufactured in and transited through his region, and that much of the cocaine was transported to the U.S.

Tovar-Pupo was arrested in Colombia based on a provisional arrest warrant and extradited to the U.S. on May 13, 2008, along with 13 other fugitives.

ERO received and confirmed Tovar-Pupo has over 40 warrants in Colombia for violations of human rights-related laws. Allegations include crimes of forced displacement, murder of a protected person, torture of a protected person, forced disappearance, illegal recruitment and destruction and appropriation of protected property. He was turned over to Colombian authorities without incident.

ICE has removed hundreds of thousands of criminal aliens, some of whom fall under the category of high-profile removals, since the agency was established in March 2003.

High-profile removals include those who are wanted for a crime in another country, such as murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, drug offenses, alien smuggling, fraud or theft. Others include persons who are national security risks, such as suspected terrorists, those involved in counter-proliferation crimes or those on the terrorist watch list and/or the no-fly list, along with human rights or war crimes violators.

ICE removed or returned 267,000 aliens in fiscal year 2019. In FY 2019, 86% of ERO’s administrative arrests consisted of aliens with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges.

ICE is focused on removing public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges.

Members of the public who have information about foreign fugitives are urged to contact ICE by calling the ICE Tip Line at 1 (866) 347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also file a tip online by completing ICE’s online tip form.

Updated: 12/09/2020