Brooklyn’s Federal Court lands pivotal role in takedown of global drug kingpin

August 15, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Another day, another drug kingpin was brought down in Downtown Brooklyn’s federal court.

In a monumental case that highlights Brooklyn’s significance in the international fight against narcotics, a senior commander from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) pleaded guilty in Brooklyn’s Federal Court on Monday.

Martin Leonel Perez Castro, infamously known as “Richard,” admitted to conspiring to distribute vast amounts of cocaine for importation into the United States.

The iconic federal courthouse in Brooklyn became the stage where Perez Castro, who led FARC’s 30th Front, admitted his role in a sprawling global narcotics network. Extricated to the Eastern District of New York in June 2022, he now faces the potential of life imprisonment, putting an end to his decades-long reign of terror.

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Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was at the helm of this groundbreaking announcement. Peace emphasized the significance of this capture, stating, “The defendant was a senior FARC leader who financed the group’s violence and terrorism through the production and distribution of thousands of kilograms of cocaine on a global scale.”

This victory wasn’t just for the U.S. but was a testament to international cooperation. The DEA office in Bogota, Colombia, the United States Department of State, the DOJ’s Office of International Affairs and the Colombian government all played pivotal roles.

Perez Castro’s arrest and subsequent plea showcase Brooklyn’s place at the forefront of U.S. efforts to combat international narcotics trafficking. “As a senior FARC leader, Perez Castro used violence, power and notoriety to import tons of cocaine from Colombia into New York City,” declared DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, further solidifying Brooklyn’s pivotal role in these large-scale investigations.

The depth of Perez Castro’s operations became clear as details emerged about his role in the FARC’s 30th Front. Generating revenue by direct sales or through extorting other traffickers, Perez Castro’s reign was marked by violence. As a part of his plea, the magnitude of his operations was exposed — Perez Castro was accountable for distributing over 75,000 kilograms of cocaine.

With a violent history dating back to 1964, the FARC’s operations and terror tactics have always been of international concern. However, after a peace accord in 2016, the FARC officially dissolved. Perez Castro’s guilty plea stands as a significant marker in the long history of this tumultuous group and the fight against them.

This notable prosecution in Brooklyn’s court stems from the efforts of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). This multi-agency approach to dismantle high-level criminal organizations showcases the potency of collaborative, intelligence-driven operations.

While the global war on drugs continues, Brooklyn’s federal court has once again played a crucial role in seeking justice. Just last week, Peace announced the 45-year sentence of Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, widely recognized by his alias “Otoniel” and once commanding the multibillion-dollar “Clan del Golfo” drug trafficking organization. Between 2012 and Oct. 23, 2021, Úsuga David led the CDG, a dominant criminal organization in Colombia and one of the world’s largest cocaine distributors.


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