Ex-Colombian Intelligence Officer Sentenced to 12 Years for Drug Trafficking
A former Colombian military intelligence official has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for his involvement in a transnational drug trafficking ring that managed shipments as large as 10,000 kilograms.
Fabian Humberto Tovar Caicedo, 41, a sergeant in the Colombian Army’s intelligence branch, was charged with smuggling multi-thousand-kilogram cocaine shipments through Mexico and into the United States.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that Tovar Caicedo bribed Colombia port authority officials, encrypted traffickers’ phones to protect them from Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) surveillance, and provided the cartel with a list of DEA officers willing to switch sides.
As Tovar Caicedo’s standing within the cartel grew, so did the quantities he was tasked with smuggling. He eventually handled loads 10 times as heavy as he was initially charged.
Tovar Caicedo’s position within the Colombian Army allowed him to network with other corrupt military officials in the cartel’s pocket.
One of his co-conspirators, Fabian Andres Leyton Vargas, a Colombian Air Force major, used his position to bribe Santa Marta port officials so they would look the other way and ensure that the cocaine-loaded containers would pass through uninspected.
Vargas was arrested in April 2018, shortly after Colombian law enforcement seized two of his shipments weighing almost 4,000 kilograms.
Another defendant in the case, ex-National Police officer Jose Maria Fragoso D’Acunti, concealed multi-hundred-kilogram shipments bound for international markets in creative ways.
In one instance, in November 2018, he hid 516 kilograms of cocaine within large pineapple shipments; the following month, he commingled 205 kilograms of narcotics with limes destined for Belgium.
Castaneda Garzon, another defendant, was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison for his role in the conspiracy.
Tovar Caicedo is the fifth Colombian military official to be sentenced in the case. His conviction comes days after U.S. President Joe Biden and his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro renewed their commitments to pursue the true owners and enablers of drug trafficking and counter their money laundering efforts.
President Biden also expressed his willingness to cooperate with Colombia’s efforts to transform coca-growing territories into other opportunities for agricultural development, targeting the cartels’ production capabilities, the very core of its business model.
The DOJ did not immediately respond to a comment about the amount of drugs Tovar Caicedo shipped before his arrest.