January 1st, 2008 06:57 EST
ICE and FBI join forces to target
WASHINGTON D.C. - Late last night, ICE and FBI agents executed a warrant to arrest Byron A. Jimenez Castaneda, 44, a citizen of Colombia, in Orlando, Florida for conspiracy to possess, distribute and import narcotics into the United States. In the 15-count indictment, Jimenez Castaneda is alleged to have coordinated the kidnapping of an undercover ICE agent in Medellin, Colombia, on December 13, 2005. Jimenez Castaneda acted as "judge" in a "narco trial" to determine the undercover ICE agent`s responsibility for the cartel`s loss of cocaine and currency to law enforcement. The indictment also alleges that a ransom of $2,000,000 was requested for the release of the undercover ICE agent.
Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Julie L. Myers and United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodr"guez-VÃ©lez announced the arrest today for violations to Title 21, United States Code (USC), Sections 841 and 846; Title 18, USC Sections 952 and 963, and Title 18, USC, Section 1203.
The arrest of Jimenez Castaneda comes following a two year ICE investigation that has resulted in the arrest of 23 cartel associates and the seizure of more than 1,900 kilograms of cocaine, numerous foreign and domestic bank accounts, more than 3 million dollars in U.S. currency and six vessels.
"This case demonstrates how ruthless this Medellin-based cartel is," said Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers. "Arresting Jimenez Castaneda on kidnapping and drug charges brings us one step closer to justice and strikes a severe blow to their criminal organization.
"Once again, the hard teamwork of state and federal law enforcement agencies, in Puerto Rico as well as in the US, prove that through collaboration we can and will eliminate all active and violent crime organizations that threaten our lives and security," said US Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodr"guez-VÃ©lez.
On Oct. 2006, as part of ICE`s "Operation Watusi" a case under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, U.S. and foreign law enforcement officers conducted simultaneous arrests in several countries that resulted in the total arrest of 22 of the 30 individuals indicted on drug and money laundering charges.
The defendants, and their co-conspirators, coordinated the transportation of multi-million dollar shipments of cocaine from South America to Puerto Rico via motor vessels and laundered the narcotics proceeds through various financial transactions. The currency is alleged to have been laundered through a complex money laundering scheme known as the Black Market Peso Exchange.
During the investigation, federal agents were able to infiltrate the money laundering and drug trafficking organizations, identifying the source of the supply of the drugs, the foreign and domestic drug transporters, a distributor, and money launderers. As a result of these simultaneous arrests in the U.S. and in several foreign countries, federal agents dismantled several drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.
The narcotics offenses charged in the indictments involve a sentence of a minimum of 10 years of imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine of not more than $4 million. The penalties for the hostage taking offense alleged in the indictments involve a maximum sentence of life of imprisonment and a fine of not more than $250,000.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy R. Henwood.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of any guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial. The U.S. government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.