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Cocaine trafficking kingpin appears in federal court

Posted on September 23, 2010 12:00 AM EST

An alleged former Columbian cocaine trafficking kingpin made his initial appearance in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida with his Miami criminal defense lawyer. Jaimie Alberto Marin-Zamora will again appear later this week for a pre-trial detention hearing where federal prosecutors will attempt to convince a federal magistrate that he is danger to the community and a flight risk. The criminal attorney representing Marin-Zamora will have a difficult time securing bail and the government will most likely prevail at the pre-trial detention hearing as the defendant is alleged to have been one of the key leaders of the North Valley cartel and he has no ties to the United States.

The North Valley cartel took over as the main cocaine trafficking ring in Columbia after U.S. and Columbia forces shut down the Cali and Medellin cartel in the 1990s. Marin-Zamora is just one of a string of former individuals accused of drug trafficking into the United States from Columbia, South America. The indictment alleges that the defendant conspired to traffic thousands of pounds of cocaine into the United States. Marin-Zamora is facing life in prison, but will not receive that sentence if he decides to enter a guilty plea. Diego Montoya Sanchez, a rival of the defendant, was arrested in Columbia in 2007 and extradited to the United States. He entered a guilty plea in 2009 and was sentenced to 45 years in prison. His indictment alleged that he smuggled more than 500 million kilograms of cocaine into the United States with a street value in excess of $10 billion.

Marin-Zamora was apprehended in Venezuela on a resort island. Venezuela agreed to turn over the defendant to the Drug Enforcement Agency despite the strained political relations between Venezuela and the United States. Like other defendant's accused of drug trafficking who get caught in Venezuela, the extradition to the United States occurs as a result of an agreement between the Columbian and Venezuelan governments as Venezuela and the United States do not have an extradition treaty. As in all drug trafficking cases, it is difficult to fight extradition from South America to the United States to face criminal charges.

Once the pre-trial detention hearing occurs, the defendant's case will be set for trial before a United States District Court judge. A standing discovery order will be entered which will require federal prosecutors to turn over the majority of the evidence to defense counsel. Once the defense attorney has had the opportunity to review the evidence with his or her client, the defendant will have to decide whether to enter a guilty plea or go forward with a jury trial. Of course, if the defendant is found guilty by a jury, the sentence imposed will be much greater than if the defendant enters a guilty plea. The severity of the sentence, as in all cases, will depend of the judge presiding over the case.

Reputed Columbia Drug Lord Appears in Miami Federal Court, The Miami Herald.com, September 22, 2010.
Categories: Drug Offenses