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United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Announces Guilty Plea of Colombian Narcotics Kingpin

U.S. Attorney’s Office January 24, 2014
  • Southern District of Florida (305) 961-9001

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division; and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce the guilty plea of Diego Perez Henao, a/k/a “Diego Rastrojo,” 42. Perez Henao, a Colombian national and a U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)-designated Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker (SDNT), pled guilty today to the one-count indictment charging him with participating in a decades-long conspiracy to manufacture and distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine knowing that the cocaine would be unlawfully imported into the United States. Perez Henao was extradited from Colombia in August 2013 and has been in custody since being captured in Venezuela on June 3, 2012.

At the plea hearing held before U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz, Perez Henao acknowledged that from 1994 until the January 2008 killing of his primary patron, North Valley Cartel head Wilber Varela, Perez Henao participated in the production and/or shipment of at least 81,100 kilograms of cocaine and then continued the shipment of additional thousands of kilograms of cocaine after Varela’s killing. He also acknowledged that his co-conspirators used a variety of modes of transportation, including airplanes, trucks, and semi-submersibles, to transport the cocaine to Mexican cartels that ultimately imported the cocaine into the United States. Perez Henao also agreed that he had controlled dozens of heavily armed workers in his organization and oversaw the large-scale manufacture and distribution of cocaine. Perez Henao, who faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of any term of years, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 5, 2014.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Diego Perez Henao was the kingpin of a prolific drug cartel responsible for the production and shipment of over 80,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. The conviction of Perez Henao concludes one of the most significant chapters in the history of the Colombian drug trade. With the continued collaboration and assistance of our law enforcement partners here and abroad, we will continue our efforts to bring the most powerful and prolific drug lords to justice.”

“Diego Perez-Henao, a/k/a Diego Rastrojo, was one of the largest Kingpins to be extradited from Colombia,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville. “He was so well-known in Colombia that emerging Bandas Criminales groups adopted the name ‘Rastrojos’ to identify themselves as significant drug trafficking gangs in various regions within Colombia. With the assistance of our Colombian counterparts, the DEA will continue to seek out, arrest, and extradite leaders of the remaining Rastrojo organizations to face justice.”

“The FBI continues to work with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice international narco-traffickers who infiltrate our borders and poison our society with dangerous drugs,” said Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami.

The indictment of Perez Henao is the result of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) led by DEA and FBI. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

Mr. Ferrer commends the outstanding investigative efforts of DEA, FBI, and their Colombian law enforcement partners. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Fels.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls

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