Colombian kingpin faces drug charges in Miami, New York after extradition

 

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

A Colombian drug kingpin faces double-barreled charges in Miami and New York, accusing him of smuggling tons of cocaine from Venezuela to the United States while financially supporting leftist guerrillas in his homeland, authorities said Tuesday.

Jose Evaristo Linares-Castillo, designated by the U.S. government as one of the “most significant” narco-traffickers in the world, is accused of producing cocaine at his labs in Colombia and storing about 20,000 kilos of it in the Apure state of Venezuela.

In Apure, near the Colombian border, Linares-Castillo used clandestine airstrips controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to transport loads of cocaine to Honduras or Guatemala and then to Mexico, prosecutors say.

From there, most of the drugs were smuggled into the United States.

Linares-Castillo, 47, extradited to New York Thursday, has pleaded not guilty to drug-trafficking charges related to his alleged financial support of the FARC, a U.S.-designated terrorist group. He also has been indicted in Miami on drug-smuggling and money-laundering charges. Four co-conspirators were also named in the Miami indictment.

Linares-Castillo collaborated with another Colombian drug lord, Daniel Arnoldo Barrera-Barrera, also known as “El Loco,” who is expected to be extradited to Miami soon to face cocaine-smuggling charges, authorities said.

Both investigations, led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, reflect the heightened role of Colombian traffickers in Venezuela and their use of Apure state as a hub for cocaine shipments through Central America and Mexico to the United States.

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