Foreign national wanted on drug-trafficking charges is flown to Miami

A Colombian who traveled to the Dominican Republic in April to negotiate a cocaine-trafficking deal was arrested there and then flown to Miami for prosecution, according to federal court records.

The May 18 arrest of Jairo Estupinan Micolta, 30, is yet another uncommon case in which a defendant who does not live in the United States is charged with a crime that allegedly occurred in a foreign country but is nonetheless brought to Miami to face trial for drug-trafficking.

Most of the other cases involving the arrest of foreign nationals abroad and their subsequent transportation to Miami have happened at sea after a U.S. ship has interdicted a boat believed to be carrying drugs. Most of these drug interdictions and arrests have occurred in Caribbean, Atlantic and even Pacific waters.

Arrests on land followed by transfer to Miami are not as common, though. A prior case in Miami federal court involved four Panamanian nationals who were arrested in 2010 when they beached their drug-laden boat and fled into the Panamanian jungle after eluding an interdiction at sea. The fugitives ultimately were arrested and turned over the United States for prosecution.

On appeal, a panel of judges reversed the defendants’ convictions because U.S. officials could not have asserted jurisdiction over the drug-trafficking offenses in the case.

In the latest case, the defendant was not arrested after a chase. He was picked up during a sting operation in the Dominican Republic in which U.S. and Dominican law enforcement participated.

The case began in late April when Estupinan traveled from Colombia to the Dominican Republic ostensibly to receive a 70-kilo cocaine shipment that subsequently would be taken to Puerto Rico, according to a criminal complaint filed by a special agent of the FBI.

What Estupinan didn’t know was that an informant had tipped off investigators and they were monitoring his movements and setting him up for an arrest.

“Estupinan made contact with an FBI confidential informant (CI-1) operating in the Dominican Republic for the purpose of receiving the cocaine from CI-1,” according to the FBI criminal complaint. “During telephonic communication with a second FBI CI (CI-2), Estupinan agreed to pay a transportation fee for transportation of the cocaine from Colombia to the Dominican Republic.”

According to the complaint, Estupinan also told the informants that he would be responsible for the subsequent delivery of the drug to Puerto Rico.

On May 2, the complaint says, Estupinan met CI-1 in Santo Domingo, a meeting monitored by agents from the Dominican Republic’s National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD). Estupinan arrived at the meeting accompanied by a man known as Espartaco and other men who were not identified in the criminal complaint.

After several more conversations between Estupinan and the informants — all monitored by Dominican law enforcement — the suspect was arrested after he arranged for a vehicle to be delivered to an informant with $30,000 and packages containing a substance believed to be cocaine, according to the FBI complaint.

Two of the individuals who were with Estupinan at the time of his arrest were armed, and one was a former Dominican police officer, according to the complaint.

A U.S. Magistrate Judge has ordered Estupinan held pending his trial because he has no ties to South Florida and is a flight risk.

“He has no ties to the United States and resides in Colombia with his girlfriend, their two children and his uncle,” wrote the Magistrate Judge, John J. O’Sullivan.

Trial is expected in December.