Diego Rastrojo, the extradited drug kingpin authorities say was the leader of a Colombian organization mainly responsible for drug trafficking to the U.S., was sentenced in a federal court in Florida, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wifredo A. Ferrer, announced Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz sentenced Rastrojo, whose real name is Diego Perez Henao, to 30 years in prison. Perez Henao, 43, was also ordered to pay $1 million to the United States.
Perez Henao was arrested in Venezuela in June 2012 with the help of Colombian police.
Henao was leader of an armed paramilitary group known as "Los Rastrojos," a vast network of heavily armed trafficking groups that provides security to cocaine trafficking activities throughout Colombia. He's also a former founding member of the Norte Valle Cartel.
Perez Henao's indictment was the result of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force led by DEA and FBI, involving Mark R. Trouville, special agent in charge, DEA, Miami Field Division; and George L. Piro, special agent in charge, FBI, Miami Field Office.
"Diego Perez Henao, one of the last leaders of the North Valley Cartel, was responsible for smuggling more than 80 tons of cocaine into the United States," said Trouville via a the United States Attorney's Office Southern District of Florida. "He used violence and intimidation to line his greedy pockets at the expense of his own people and had no regard for those who would consume this addictive poison. Today's sentencing is a reminder that there is no place to hide; the DEA along with our domestic and international law enforcement partners will continue to pursue and prosecute those who engage in drug trafficking into our borders."
The U.S. Department of State offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to Perez Henao's capture. After being caught in Venezuela, Perez Henao was extradited to the U.S. and declared his innocence.
But in January of this year, he admitted his guilt in the manufacture and distribution of 81,100 kilograms of cocaine of cocaine with the knowledge that it would be sent to be sold in the U.S.
He further admitted of a well-organized means of transporting the drug into the U.S., using armed workers, airplanes, and semi-submersibles to ship cocaine from South America to drop-off points in Central America and Mexico. From there, the drugs would make their way into the U.S.
"Diego Perez Henao was a notorious, international drug kingpin who for years profited from the shipment and sale of illegal drugs," said Ken Sena, acting assistant special agent in charge, FBI Miami. "His illicit career was brought to an end through close cooperation with our law enforcement partners."
Since his capture, the Rastrojos have essentially fallen apart and been replaced by the Urabeños, who were their chief rivals in Colombia.
The Urabeños are now considered Colombia's principal drug-trafficking organization.