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Columbian kingpin pleads guilty in miami cocaine trafficking case

Posted on August 11, 2009 3:00 AM EST

A former cocaine trafficking kingpin for a Columbia drug cartel entered a guilty plea in a U.S. District Court to cocaine trafficking, racketeering and obstruction of justice. The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida indicted Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez on 15 counts, said Montoya's Miami criminal defense attorney. As a result of his guilty plea, the federal prosecutor will dismiss twelve of the fifteen counts at the time of sentencing.

Montoya entered guilty pleas on two separate indictments. The first federal case being prosecuted in Miami, Florida related to cocaine trafficking and obstruction of justice. Montoya pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and one count of obstruction of justice. The second federal case was initiated in Washington, D.C., but later transferred to Miami, Florida and related to a racketeering allegation. Montoya pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in racketeering. The case was transferred to Miami so that Montoya could enter a plea into both federal cases at the same time.

Sentencing in both cases is set before the U.S. District Judge, Cecilia Altonaga, on October 21, 2009. Montoya faces life in prison, but federal prosecutors will probably ask for a 45 year prison sentence. Federal officials were pleased with result by saying that Montoya is the notorious leader of a violent Columbian drug cartel and that he belongs in prison for cocaine trafficking and murder. Montoya was also known as Don Diego and headed the Norte Valle drug cartel.

Prior to his capture, Montoya had a 5 million bounty on his head and made the FBI's Top 10 Wanted List. He was captured in Columbia in 2007 and then extradited to the United States fifteen months later. The FBI called the Norte Valle Cartel the most violent and dangerous cocaine trafficking syndicate in Columbia, responsible for trafficking to the United States at least 1.2 million pounds of cocaine with a street value of 10 billion dollars.

Even though he was not required to, Montoya made a statement to the judge apologizing for his criminal conduct and expressed remorse for his victims and victim's families. He is the fourth member of the cartel to enter a guilty plea in the Southern District of Florida. His brother entered guilty plea in January 2009 to conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and obstruction of justice. He received a 30 year prison sentence. The other two members of the cartel entered guilty pleas to the same charges and received twenty year prison sentences.

Columbia Cartel Head Pleads Guilty in Miami, CNN.com, August 11, 2009.
Categories: Drug Offenses