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Colombian drug kingpin busted in massive smuggling operation

September 16, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Colombian drug kingpin busted in massive smuggling operation

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Reputed Colombian drug lord Victor Hugo Cuellar-Silva, a member of a violent criminal enterprise that employed planes, speedboats, and submarines to smuggle hundreds of millions worth of cocaine appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom on Friday to face federal drug trafficking charges.

According to a Justice Department press release, Victor Hugo Cuellar-Silva is one of almost four dozen defendants charged in an extensive conspiracy to smuggle tons of cocaine from South America through Mexico to the United States.

The indictment, which was unsealed Thursday, targeted all levels of the drug distribution chain from the source of where the cocaine was manufactured in Colombia to investors in Mexico, transportation organizers, residences where the drugs were stashed, and to large-scale distributors in the United States.

Cuellar-Silva, who was extradited from Colombia on Thursday, was a high-ranking associate of the drug organization led by Mexican fugitive Angel Humberto Chavez-Gastelum, who is one of the most-wanted drug traffickers across the globe.

Alonso Jaime Gastelum-Salazar (AP)

Chavez-Gastelum and his son, Alonso Jaime Gastelum-Salazar, have also been charged with two counts of murder in Mexico. One of the victims was tortured and dismembered, and the horrific act was recorded on video obtained by authorities.

“This drug ring has spread death and misery across the Americas and other parts of the world, which makes this among the most significant drug trafficking cases in this district,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna stated.

Law enforcement officials seized over 7,700 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $500 million during the three-year probe.

The seizures included cocaine seized after a plane was shot down by the Venezuelan army and crashed in the Caribbean, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Barron.

Other drugs seized included almost a ton of cocaine drifting in bales off the coast of Tumaco, Colombia, and over 1,500 pounds of cocaine and over 60 pounds of meth confiscated from a stash house in Tijuana, Mexico.

The indictment charged 47 suspects in the drug ring. Seven defendants were taken into custody in the U.S. on Thursday, four were in custody in Thailand, and another six are facing extradition from Colombia. The others suspects are still on the lam.

Cuellar-Silva entered a not guilty plea and remained in custody, Barron reported.

If found guilty, Cuellar-Silva and Chavez-Gastelum face up to life behind bars.

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