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Published on Tuesday,  November 23, 2021
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff and wire services

A Colombian citizen man surnamed Zapata-Taborda was arraigned before the United States Department of Justice at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y. on an indictment charging him with leading an international cocaine distribution conspiracy.

According to the indictment, court filings, and statements made in court, the defendant supplied metric tons of cocaine to numerous drug trafficking organizations in Colombia, for distribution to locations in Costa Rica for ultimate importation to the United States.

Zapata also distributed cocaine in the Caribbean, Central American countries, Europe, and the United States, according to the Department of Justice.

The defendant was arrested in Colombia on a provisional arrest warrant issued from the Eastern District of New York and subsequently extradited from Colombia to the United States on Nov. 12.

Zapata is detained pending trial. The defendant has been designated a Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) by the Department of Justice, a designation given to the most significant narcotics traffickers in the world.

“As alleged in the indictment, the defendant was the leader of one of Colombia’s largest drug trafficking enterprises that supplied massive, metric ton quantities of cocaine to some of the most violent drug trafficking organizations in the United States, the Caribbean, Central America, and Europe,” the United States Attorney Anthony Peace said. “The Department of Justice is committed to working with our international partners to dismantle destructive networks of drug trafficking organizations that seek to spread dangerous and addictive narcotics throughout the world.”

As part of the investigation, law enforcement authorities seized over 1.9 metric tons of cocaine attributable to Zapata’s drug trafficking enterprise. The seizures included multi-hundred-kilogram shipments of cocaine sent by the Zapata drug trafficking organization from Colombia to Jamaica and Costa Rica to the United States.

According to the Department of Justice, among the drug trafficking organizations supplied by the defendant was Clan del Golfo which is one of the most prolific and violent in the world. Colombian law enforcement authorities also seized and destroyed a large-scale cocaine laboratory operated by the Zapata drug trafficking organization in Antioquia, Colombia.

The extradition of Zapata is the result of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the DEA.

The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

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.

In Costa Rica, authorities call for people to report any suspicion of drug sales or trafficking to the confidential line 800-8000-645 or 11-76, where bilingual agents can answer calls in English or Spanish.

What have you heard about foreigners allegedly trafficking drugs from Costa Rica? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com

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