Colombian cocaine smuggler sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison

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TAMPA, Fla. — A Colombian man was sentenced Friday to 15 years and six months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing and intending that such substance would be unlawfully imported into the United States. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Panama Express North Strike Force along with partners from the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI. Substantial assistance was also provided by the HSI Bogota Office.

According to court documents, from 2003 until January 2005, Luis Alberto Urrego-Contreras acquired private aircraft and pilots on behalf of Colombian cocaine trafficker Fabio Enrique Ochoa-Vasco for the purpose of transporting cocaine from Colombia to Mexico. The cocaine was later imported into the United States for distribution by Ochoa-Vasco.

"Leveraging our worldwide assets, HSI will continue to partner with federal and local agencies, not only working to stem the flow of narcotics into the United States, but also dismantling the organizations responsible for these crimes," said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa.

In January 2005, Urrego-Contreras arranged the purchase of an airplane from a business in St. Petersburg, Florida. The plane was a Beechcraft King Air model. It was flown first to Brazil then to Venezuela. On June 22, 2005, the plane was supposed to fly from Venezuela to Colombia to retrieve approximately 2,000 kilograms of cocaine. However, the pilot noticed that the designated Colombian airstrip was being monitored by the Colombian Air Force. The pilot then headed back to Venezuela. Upon arrival in Venezuela, the pilot and co-pilot were arrested.

On Oct. 28, 2010, Urrego-Contreras was arrested at the American Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. After being read his Miranda rights and signing a Spanish consent form, he agreed to speak to special agents. He identified photographs of Ochoa-Vasco and others involved in the plane smuggling conspiracy. Urrego-Contreras stated that he was paid between $50,000-$100,000 for each load. Urrego-Contreras admitted that he was responsible for at least 1,000 kilograms of cocaine that was flown from Colombia to Mexico, and later distributed to the United States by Ochoa-Vasco.

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