Martin Leonel Perez Castro, also known as “Richard,” was extradited last Friday from Colombia to the United States to face charges in the Eastern District of New York of leading a continuing criminal enterprise and participating in an international cocaine manufacture and distribution conspiracy. According to the indictment, court filings, and statements made in court, the defendant was the commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) 30th Front, a group that operated in southwestern Colombia.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Anne Milgram, Administrator, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Thomas Fattorusso, Executive Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, New York Field Office (IRS-CI), announced the extradition and arraignment.
“As alleged, the defendant was a senior leader within FARC and used armed violence to protect a sophisticated operation that produced and distributed thousands of kilograms of cocaine on a global scale, all to help finance the paramilitary group’s mission to overthrow the Government of Colombia,” stated United States Attorney Peace.
Mr. Peace extended his appreciation to the DEA’s office in Bogota, Colombia, the United States Marshals Service, the United States Department of State, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS) Judicial Attachés in Bogotá, the Colombian National Police, the Government of Colombia, the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and the New York State Police (NYSP).
Martin Leonel Perez Castro Allegedly Led the FARC’s 30th Front and Oversaw the Distribution of Thousands of Kilograms of Cocaine
DEA Administrator Milgram said, “The charges demonstrate that this violent narco-trafficking group imported tons of cocaine from Colombia into New York City. Through dedicated and tireless efforts, DEA and our global law enforcement partners have brought this senior FARC member to justice in the United States.”
“As an alleged senior FARC commander in Colombia, it’s charged that Martin Leonel Perez Castro used violence and terroristic tactics to expand the FARC’s narcotics empire while distributing thousands of pounds of cocaine across the United States and Europe. Today’s extradition is the beginning of a long road where Perez Castro will face American justice, and just as the FARC dissolved, so will his freedom,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Fattorusso.
The FARC was founded in 1964 as a left-wing paramilitary group dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Government of Colombia. Over decades of conflict, the FARC attacked Colombian government forces and used targeted killings, kidnapping, and other terrorist tactics to achieve its ends. In October 1997, the U.S. Secretary of State designated the FARC as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). After the Government of Colombia and the FARC entered into a peace accord in 2016, the FARC formally dissolved. On November 30, 2021, the U.S. Secretary of State revoked the designation of the FARC as an FTO. The defendant’s conduct occurred prior to the 2016 peace accord.
The 30th Front, allegedly led by Perez Castro, supplied many thousands of kilograms of cocaine to other drug trafficking organizations for distribution to locations in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere, sometimes attacking rival drug trafficking groups or Colombian government forces to protect or expand FARC territory. As part of the investigation, law enforcement authorities seized over 2,500 kilograms of cocaine attributable to Perez Castro’s drug trafficking enterprise. The seizures included more than 1,000 kilograms of cocaine recovered at and near a large-scale laboratory that was co-owned by the defendant.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendant faces up to life in prison.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Saritha Komatireddy and Andrew D. Wang are in charge of the prosecution.