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U.S. Attorney Announces Narco-Terrorism Charges Against Nicolas Maduro, Current And Former Venezuelan Officials, And Farc Leadership

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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney’s Office

Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Thursday, March 26, 2020

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Narco-Terrorism Charges Against Nicolas Maduro, Current And Former Venezuelan Officials, And Farc Leadership
Venezuela’s Vice President for the Economy and Others Separately Charged with Evading OFAC Sanctions In Connection With Maduro’s 2018 Presidential Campaign

William Barr, the Attorney General of the United States, Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Brian Benczkowski, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, Uttam Dhillon, Acting Administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), and Alysa D. Erichs, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Acting Executive Associate Director for Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced the unsealing of two separate indictments charging current and former Venezuelan officials and FARC leadership.  One Superseding Indictment includes narco-terrorism, drug trafficking, and weapons charges against NICOLÁS MADURO MOROS, Diosdado CABELLO RONDÓN, HUGO ARMANDO CARVAJAL BARRIOS, a/k/a “El Pollo,” CLÍVER ANTONIO ALCALÁ CORDONES, LUCIANO MARÍN ARANGO, a/k/a “Ivan Marquez,” and SEUXIS PAUCIS HERNÁNDEZ SOLARTE, a/k/a “Jesús Santrich.”  The other Superseding Indictment alleges violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”) and the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (“Kingpin Act”), and a related conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), against TARECK ZAIDAN EL AISSAMI MADDAH, JOSELIT RAMIREZ CAMACHO, and SAMARK LOPEZ BELLO.  The charges are contained in separate Superseding Indictments unsealed today in Manhattan federal court.  Both cases are pending before U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.

The U.S. Department of State, through its Narcotics Rewards Program, is offering rewards of up to $15 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of MADURO MOROS, up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of CABELLO RONDÓN, CARVAJAL BARRIOS, and ALCALÁ CORDONES, and up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of MARÍN ARANGO.  Anyone with information that may lead to the arrest and/or conviction of Maduro Moros, Cabello Rondón, Carvajal Barrios, or Marín Arango can email the DEA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or message the DEA at 1-202-681-8187 using text messages, WhatsApp, or Signal.

The U.S. Department of State is also offering rewards of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of EL AISSAMI MADDAH.  Anyone with information that may lead to the arrest and/or conviction of EL AISSAMI MADDAH can contact HSI 1-866-347-2423.

Attorney General William Barr said: “The Venezuelan regime, once led by Nicolás Maduro Moros, remains plagued by criminality and corruption. For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities. Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government – a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government. The United States will not allow these corrupt Venezuelan officials to use the U.S. banking system to move their illicit proceeds from South America nor further their criminal schemes.”

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Today we announce criminal charges against Nicolas Maduro for running, together with his top lieutenants, a narco-terrorism partnership with the FARC for the past 20 years.  The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges.  As alleged, Maduro and the other defendants expressly intended to flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine the health and wellbeing of our nation.  Maduro very deliberately deployed cocaine as a weapon.  While Maduro and other cartel members held lofty titles in Venezuela’s political and military leadership, the conduct described in the Indictment wasn’t statecraft or service to the Venezuelan people.   As alleged, the defendants betrayed the Venezuelan people and corrupted Venezuelan institutions to line their pockets with drug money.”

DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said:  “These indictments expose the devastating systemic corruption at the highest levels of Nicolas Maduro’s regime.  These officials repeatedly and knowingly betrayed the people of Venezuela, conspiring, for personal gain, with drug traffickers and designated foreign terrorist organizations like the FARC. Today’s actions send a clear message to corrupt officials everywhere that no one is above the law or beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement.  The Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration will continue to protect the American people from ruthless drug traffickers – no matter who they are or where they live.”

ICE Acting Executive Associate Director for HSI Alysa D. Erichs said:  “The collaborative nature of this investigation is representative of the ongoing work HSI and international law enforcement agencies perform each day, often behind the scenes and unknown to the public, to make our communities safer and free from corruption.  Today’s announcement highlights HSI’s global reach and commitment to aggressively identify, target and investigate individuals who violate U.S. laws, exploit financial systems, and hide behind cryptocurrency to further their illicit criminal activity. Let this indictment be a reminder that no one is above the law - not even powerful political officials.”

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment charging MADURO MOROs and others, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings[1]:

Since at least 1999, MADURO MOROS, DIOSDADO CABELLO RONDÓN, HUGO CARVAJAL BARRIOS, a/k/a “El Pollo,” and CLÍVER ALCALÁ CORDONES, acted as leaders and managers of the Cártel de Los Soles, or “Cartel of the Suns.”  The Cartel’s name refers to the sun insignias affixed to the uniforms of high-ranking Venezuelan military officials. MADURO MOROS and the other charged Cartel members abused the Venezuelan people and corrupted the legitimate institutions of Venezuela – including parts of the military, intelligence apparatus, legislature, and the judiciary – to facilitate the importation of tons of cocaine into the United States.  The Cártel de Los Soles sought not only to enrich its members and enhance their power, but also to “flood” the United States with cocaine and inflict the drug’s harmful and addictive effects on users into the United States.

MARÍN ARANGO and HERNÁNDEZ SOLARTE are leaders of the FARC.  Beginning in approximately 1999, while the FARC was purporting to negotiate toward peace with the Colombian government, FARC leaders agreed with leaders of the Cártel de Los Soles to relocate some of the FARC’s operations to Venezuela under the protection of the Cartel.  Thereafter, the FARC and the Cártel de Los Soles dispatched processed cocaine from Venezuela to the United States via transshipment points in the Caribbean and Central America, such as Honduras.  By approximately 2004, the United States Department of State estimated that 250 or more tons of cocaine were transiting Venezuela per year.  The maritime shipments were shipped north from Venezuela’s coastline using go-fast vessels, fishing boats, and container ships.  Air shipments were often dispatched from clandestine airstrips, typically made of dirt or grass, concentrated in the Apure State.  According to the United States Department of State, approximately 75 unauthorized flights suspected of drug trafficking activities entered Honduran airspace in 2010 alone, using what is known as the “air bridge” cocaine route between Venezuela and Honduras.

In his role as a leader of the Cártel de Los Soles, MADURO MOROS negotiated multi-ton shipments of FARC-produced cocaine; directed that the Cártel de Los Soles provide military-grade weapons to the FARC; coordinated foreign affairs with Honduras and other countries to facilitate large-scale drug trafficking; and solicited assistance from FARC leadership in training an unsanctioned militia group that functioned, in essence, as an armed forces unit for the Cártel de Los Soles.

The Defendants

MADURO MOROS is the former president of Venezuela.  He previously held a seat in the Venezuelan National Assembly between approximately 2000 and approximately 2006, acted as the Venezuelan foreign minister between approximately 2006 and approximately 2013, and acted as the vice president of Venezuela in approximately 2013.  MADURO MOROS succeeded to the Venezuelan presidency after Hugo Chávez died in 2013 and, during his presidency, continued to participate in cocaine trafficking with the Cártel de Los Soles and the FARC.  In approximately 2018, MADURO MOROS declared victory in a presidential election in Venezuela.  In approximately 2019, the National Assembly of Venezuela invoked the Venezuelan constitution and declared that MADURO MOROS had usurped power and was not the president of Venezuela.  Since approximately 2019, more than 50 countries, including the United States, have refused to recognize MADURO MOROS as Venezuela’s head of state and instead recognized Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela.  In approximately January 2020, the U.S. State Department certified the authority of Guaidó, as the interim president of Venezuela, to receive and control property in accounts at the United States Federal Reserve maintained by the Venezuelan government and the Central Bank of Venezuela.

CABELLO RONDÓN is president of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly, and a member of the Venezuelan armed forces.  CABELLO RONDÓN previously acted as chief of staff to Chávez in approximately 2001, vice president of Venezuela in approximately 2002, governor of Venezuela’s Miranda State between approximately 2004 and approximately 2008, and president of Venezuela’s National Assembly between approximately 2012 and approximately 2016.

CARVAJAL BARRIOS is a Venezuelan citizen and was the director of Venezuela’s military intelligence agency, which was known as the Dirección de Inteligencia Militar (“DIM”), between approximately 2004 and approximately 2011.  In approximately April 2011, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed the original indictment in this case, charging CARVAJAL BARRIOS with drug trafficking, 11 Cr. 205 (AKH).  Nonetheless, in approximately 2013, MADURO MOROS made CARVAJAL BARRIOS the director of the DIM for a second time.  Between approximately January 2014 and approximately June 2014, CARVAJAL BARRIOS held the title of Venezuela’s consul general to Aruba.  In approximately January 2016, despite being a fugitive on the above-described drug trafficking charges, CARVAJAL BARRIOS was elected to the Venezuelan National Assembly.  As of today, CARVAJAL BARRIOS remains a fugitive on pending charges in underlying indictments in the Southern District of New York and subject to a lawful order of extradition issued by Spain in approximately 2019.

ALCALÁ CORDONES is a former general in the Venezuelan military.

MARÍN ARANGO joined the FARC in approximately 1985.  In approximately 2006, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a drug trafficking charge against 50 leaders of the FARC, including MARÍN ARANGO.  As of today, MARÍN ARANGO is a fugitive on that charge and a member of the FARC’s Secretariat, which is the FARC’s highest leadership body.

HERNÁNDEZ SOLARTE joined the FARC in approximately 1991.  As of today, HERNÁNDEZ SOLARTE is a member of the FARC’s Central High Command, which is the FARC’s second-highest leadership body.  As described below, in approximately 2018, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed drug trafficking charges against HERNÁNDEZ SOLARTE.  HERNÁNDEZ SOLARTE remains a fugitive on those charges.

*                *                *

MADURO MOROS, 57, CABELLO RONDÓN, 56, CARVAJAL BARRIOS, 59, ALCALÁ CORDONES, 58, MARÍN ARANGO, 64, and HERNÁNDEZ SOLARTE, 53, have each been charged with: (1) participating in a narco-terrorism conspiracy, which carries a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of life; (2) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, which carries a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of life; (3) using and carrying machine guns and destructive devices during and in relation to, and possessing machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the narco-terrorism and cocaine importation conspiracies, which carries a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of life; and (4) conspiring to use and carry machine guns and destructive devices during and in relation to, and to possess machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the narco-terrorism and cocaine importation conspiracies, which carries a maximum sentence of life.  The potential mandatory minimum and maximum sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA’s Special Operations Division Bilateral Investigations Unit, New York Strike Force, and Miami Field Division, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda L. Houle, Matthew J. Laroche, Jason A. Richman, and Kyle A. Wirshba are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges in the Superseding Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

*                *                *

A separate Superseding Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court charges TARECK ZAIDAN EL AISSAMI MADDAH, Venezuela’s vice president for the economy, JOSELIT RAMIREZ CAMACHO, Venezuela’s superintendent of cryptocurrency (Sunacrip), and SAMARK LOPEZ BELLO, a Venezuelan businessman, with violations of IEEPA, the Kingpin Act, and other offenses related to efforts to evade sanctions imposed by OFAC against MADURO MOROS, EL AISSAMI MADDAH, and LOPEZ BELLO.

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment charging EL AISSAMI MADDAH and others, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings[2]:

From February 2017 until March 2019, EL AISSAMI MADDAH and RAMIREZ CAMACHO worked with U.S. persons and U.S.-based entities to provide private flight services for the benefit of MADURO MOROS’s 2018 presidential campaign, in violation of OFAC’s sanctions targeting MADURO MOROS after he organized elections for the illegitimate National Constituent Assembly that CABELLO RONDÓN now leads.

*                *                *

EL AISSAMI MADDAH, 45, RAMIREZ CAMACHO, 33, and LOPEZ BELLO, 45, are charged with: (1) conspiracy to obstruct the lawful governmental functions of OFAC, which carries a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment; (2) conspiracy to violate the Kingpin Act, which carries a maximum of 30 years’ imprisonment; and (3) four substantive violations of the Kingpin Act, each of which carries a maximum of 30 years’ imprisonment.  EL AISSAMI MADDAH and RAMIREZ CAMACHO are also charged with: (4) conspiracy to violate IEEPA, which carries a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment; and (5) conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment. The potential mandatory minimum and maximum sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of HSI’s New York Field Office, as well as OFAC, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

This case is also being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sam Adelsberg and Amanda L. Houle are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges in the Superseding Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Superseding Indictment, and the description of the Superseding Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

[2] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Superseding Indictment, and the description of the Superseding Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.   

 

Press Release Source: https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/manhattan-us-attorney-announces-narco-terrorism-charges-against-nicolas-maduro-current