Vipal J. Patel becomes Acting United States Attorney | USAO-SDOH

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Colombian national was extradited to Ohio yesterday to face federal drug charges in the Southern District of Ohio. He appeared in U.S. District Court here today.

 

Sergio L. Valderrama-Areiza, 35, allegedly conspired with others to coordinate the shipment of thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia, via sea and land, through Central America and Mexico, to the United States.

 

The defendant – also known as Blindaje, Blindaje Artesanal and Rasputin – is alleged to be involved in moving tens of millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine to America.

 

As part of this case, law enforcement officers seized more than 250 kilograms of cocaine total in Panama in February, March, May and November 2018. An additional 278 kilograms of cocaine was seized by law enforcement in Panama in August and September 2018 and April 2019.

 

The indictment details that, as part of the conspiracy, individuals would use “load” coordinators to assist with logistics of cocaine shipments, locate drivers and boat operators for narcotic-laden vehicles and vessels, and secure shared investments from multiple co-conspirators in specific cocaine shipments.

 

Fishermen and other commercial maritime laborers were allegedly recruited by conspirators to transport cocaine and refueling vessels.

 

Conspirators allegedly paid a “tax” or “fee” to send cocaine through areas controlled by a different drug trafficking organization or cartel.

 

Members of the conspiracy allegedly shared information on the activities and locations of law enforcement and military personnel assigned to interdict narcotics shipments. It is alleged co-conspirators also sheltered individuals who were at risk of extradition to other countries.

 

Low-level co-conspirators would allegedly take responsibility for an entire load of seized cocaine in order to free higher-level members.

 

The narcotics conspiracy in this case is punishable by 10 years up to life in prison.

 

Vipal J. Patel, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Keith Martin, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Richard S. Fambro announced the charges. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan J.C. Grey, Elizabeth Rabe and Kelly A. Norris are representing the United States in this case.

 

An indictment is merely an allegation, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

 

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