Skip to main content
Tags: US | Colombia | Drug Indictments

Colombia's Once Most-Wanted Drug Lord Pleads Guilty in US

Colombia's Once Most-Wanted Drug Lord Pleads Guilty in US
(AP)

Wednesday, 25 January 2023 03:21 PM EST

A Colombian man who was once one of the world's most-wanted drug lords pleaded guilty Wednesday to U.S. smuggling charges, admitting that he led a cartel and paramilitary group that trafficked in cocaine and deadly violence.

“Tons of cocaine were moved with my permission or at my direction,” Dairo Antonio Úsuga, better known as Otoniel, told a Brooklyn federal court.

“There was a lot of violence with the guerillas and the criminal gangs,” he added, and acknowledged that “in military work, homicides were committed.”

Úsuga, 51, could face decades in prison when he is sentenced. Federal sentencing guidelines call for a life term, but the U.S. government agreed not to seek one in order to secure his extradition from Colombia earlier this year, according to U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry.

As part of his plea deal, he agreed to forfeit $216 million.

Úsuga presided over the Gulf Clan, which terrorized much of northern Colombia to control major cocaine-smuggling routes. U.S. authorities have called him one of the most dangerous drug traffickers on the planet, and he was Colombia's most-wanted kingpin. Former Colombian President Iván Duque compared him to the infamous 1980s-era kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said last year that the gang's thousands of enforcers carried out attacks, kidnappings, torture, assassinations and organized campaigns against Colombian law enforcement and military troops. Úsuga sometimes personally ordered the killing and torture of perceived enemies and flexed his power by declaring “strikes” in which businesses had to shut down and people had to stay home throughout the cartel's turf, Peace said.

Úsuga was named in a series of U.S. indictments going back to 2009. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest, and the Colombian government offered $800,000. Over the years, Colombian authorities arrested or killed hundreds of cartel members, deployed over 1,000 police officers to hunt for the kingpin and publicized the U.S. reward by dropping flyers out of helicopters.

But Úsuga eluded capture until 2021 through a combination of corruption, alliances with both left- and right-wing combatants in the internal conflict that has wracked Colombia for over half a century, and living off the grid in the countryside. He purportedly used a different safe house every night.

When he was apprehended, Duque said Úsuga was “not only the most dangerous drug trafficker in the world, but he is murderer of social leaders, abuser of boys, girls and adolescents, a murderer of policemen.”

Úsuga was extradited to the U.S. this past May. He pleaded guilty Wednesday to leading a continuing criminal enterprise and various drug trafficking charges that involve nearly 97,000 kg (107 tons) of cocaine.

Úsuga got his start as a gunman for a now-defunct leftist guerrilla group, then switched sides and joined a right-wing paramilitary organization. Most recently, Úsuga claimed to lead an outfit called the Gaitanist Self Defense Forces of Colombia, named for a mid-20th century Colombian leftist firebrand. Authorities consider the group devoid of any political ideology.

© Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Newsfront
A Colombian man who was once one of the world's most-wanted drug lords pleaded guilty Wednesday to U.S. smuggling charges, admitting that he led a cartel and paramilitary group that trafficked in cocaine and deadly violence."Tons of cocaine were moved with my permission or...
US, Colombia, Drug Indictments
500
2023-21-25
Wednesday, 25 January 2023 03:21 PM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Sign up for Newsmax’s Daily Newsletter

Receive breaking news and original analysis - sent right to your inbox.

(Optional for Local News)
Privacy: We never share your email address.
Join the Newsmax Community
Read and Post Comments
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
 
TOP

Interest-Based Advertising | Do not sell or share my personal information

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Download the NewsmaxTV App
Get the NewsmaxTV App for iOS Get the NewsmaxTV App for Android Scan QR code to get the NewsmaxTV App
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved