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Mexican Cocaine-Trafficking Org. Leader Arrested

U.S. Arrests Leader of Mexican Cocaine-Trafficking Organization

Mexico helps in arrest of one of world's top cocaine kingpins

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- U.S. and Mexican authorities have worked together to arrest the leader of a Mexican cocaine-smuggling organization who was considered one of world's top cocaine drug traffickers.

In an October 4 statement, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said it arrested Agustin Haro-Rodriguez on charges of importing nearly 4.5 metric tons of cocaine from Mexico into the United States between March 2004 and July 2005. The cocaine had a street value of more than $90 million, authorities said.

The arrest of Haro-Rodriguez constitutes the conclusion of "Operation Band on the Run," a DEA-led international law enforcement operation involving U.S. cooperation with Mexican authorities, working with DEA's offices in Mexico.

Haro-Rodriguez was arrested October 2 as he was trying to cross the border from Mexico into the U.S. state of Arizona.

The announcement of the arrest was accompanied by the unsealing of narcotics-trafficking and money-laundering charges against Haro-Rodriguez and 24 members of his criminal organization. To date, 17 of the 25 members of the drug-smuggling ring are in custody.

Haro-Rodriguez was designated a U.S. national consolidated priority organization target, which identifies significant drug and money-laundering organizations threatening the United States. The consolidated list is overseen by what is called the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program, which combines the resources of seven U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the departments of Treasury, Justice and Homeland Security. More information about the task force program is available on the Department of Justice Web site.

The DEA said that after the cocaine was sold in the United States, one of Haro-Rodriguez's top lieutenants, Isaac Valdez-Barrot, coordinated the collection of millions of dollars of cocaine proceeds in the New York City area, and arranged for Haro-Rodriguez's drug money to be concealed in music equipment and other packages and transported across the U.S. border into Mexico.

If convicted, all the defendants face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years of imprisonment on the narcotics-trafficking charges. In addition, various defendants face an additional maximum sentence of 20 years of imprisonment on money-laundering charges.

Michael Pasterchick, the DEA's special agent-in-charge in the agency's New Jersey office, said Haro-Rodriguez's arrest "removed one of the world's top cocaine drug traffickers, who orchestrated the smuggling of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States." Pasterchick said the arrest "represents a resounding victory for American citizens," as Haro-Rodriguez "will no longer be able to distribute his brand of poison and accompanying violence to our communities."

Michael Garcia, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, added that the arrest "once again demonstrates that drug kingpins who remain outside the United States but send their poison to our communities will not escape prosecution and arrest." Garcia singled out for praise Mexican authorities for helping to break up the cocaine ring.

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