After the fall of drug lord Pablo Escobar, a number of cartels leapt at the chance to seize control of the Colombian drug trade. The Norte Valley Cartel eventually rose to the top, becoming responsible for 60 percent of all cocaine coming into the United States. Cartel members had a blatant disrespect for the law and a willingness to kill anyone who stood in their way.
This threat of danger didn't stop Romedio Viola, a former special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), from investigating the cartel and bringing its leadership to justice. His efforts were detailed in Jeffrey Robinson's recently released book, "The Takedown."
Viola's actions represent the work of all ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents. As the largest investigative agency in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ICE HSI agents conduct bulk cash, fraud and drug trafficking investigations every day.
Today, ICE HSI's presence across the country is unmatched. Agents serve on a multitude of task forces to combat drug smuggling. To date, in fiscal year 2011, ICE HSI agents seized nearly two million pounds of drugs and more than five million dollars in illicit funds. They have also detected and shut down weaknesses in the U.S. financial trade and transportation sectors, which serve as smuggling routes for criminal organizations like the Norte Valley Cartel.
"As a special agent, they tell you to go chase the bad guys. So you get out there and you pull together with your fellow agents to get the job done. I was proud to be a part of ICE; I still am," said Viola.
In "The Takedown," Viola was described as a man driven to bring down criminals. That description is fitting for not just him, but for all of the men and women of ICE who work tirelessly to bring drug trafficking organizations to justice.
Learn more about ICE HSI's role in narcotics enforcement.