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Accused Colombian Drug Kingpin Admits to US Cocaine Scheme

FILE - Daniel Barrera , one of Colombia's most wanted drug lords, whose alias is “El Loco” is escorted in a flak jacket by National Guard troopers as he is deported to Colombia from Venezuela, Nov. 14, 2012.

For the second time in two months, a Colombian accused of being a drug kingpin and pursued for years by U.S. authorities pleaded guilty to federal charges in a New York courtroom on Thursday.

Daniel Barrera, 47, faces life in prison after pleading guilty in Manhattan federal court to a charge that he conspired to manufacture and import cocaine knowing it would be imported into the United States.

He had pleaded guilty in October to conspiring to illegally launder tens of millions of dollars in cocaine trafficking profits in a separate related case in Brooklyn federal court.

Barrera, also known as "Loco" (Crazy), was extradited in July 2013 to face those two indictments as well as a third in Miami.

U.S. authorities have accused Barrera of running a cocaine manufacturing and trafficking syndicate since 1998 that processed about 400 tons of the drug annually.

Prosecutors say Barrera bought the raw cocaine paste from the leftist rebel group FARC and processed it in laboratories in areas controlled by a now-demobilized paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC.

"A drug kingpin who enriched two terrorist organizations and himself by producing and peddling poison now stands to lose his wealth, his empire, and his liberty," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Barrera was arrested in Venezuela in September 2012 with the help of authorities there as well as British and U.S. intelligence agencies.

Colombian authorities had been closing in on his organization in the weeks before his arrest, detaining 36 suspected members and seizing five tons of cocaine.

Barrera is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27. He will then be presented and arraigned in Miami on the third indictment, prosecutors said Thursday.

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