“Good afternoon, I’m Breon Peace, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Thank you all for being here this afternoon in person and online.
With me today are: Anne Milgram, Administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Ricky J. Patel, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York office, from the FBI New York field office, we have Michael Driscoll, Assistant Director in Charge, from the NYPD we have Captain Thomas Kelly, Commanding Officer of the Drug Enforcement Task Force, Chief Marshal Vincent DeMarco from the United States Marshals Service, Captain Michael Sumnick from New York State Police; and my US Attorney’s Office team, AUSAs Gillian A. Kassner Tara B. McGrath and paralegal Sophia Cronin
We are here today to announce the extradition from Colombia of one of the most dangerous, most-wanted drug kingpins in the world, Dairo Antonio Úsuga David (also known as “Otoniel”), to whom murder was meaningless, and violence the ultimate currency.
For the last decade, Úsuga David has been the principal leader of the Clan Del Golfo, or CDG, the most powerful paramilitary and drug trafficking cartel in Colombia. He is responsible for trafficking vast amounts of cocaine—measured in tons, not pounds or kilograms; for earning enormous profits, measured in billions, not millions; and for overseeing an army of henchmen who murdered, kidnapped and tortured victims—including Colombian law enforcement and military personnel—to maintain control of the cartel and the regions where it operates.
His direct orders to his thousands of military-clad followers sent a ripple effect of drugs, death, and destruction to every community his cocaine shipments touched, from Colombia to right here in the Eastern District of New York. Today, he will finally face justice in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn for charges based on his role as the supreme leader of the cartel.
Úsuga David is charged in a three-count superseding indictment with leading a Continuing Criminal Enterprise from June 2003 through October 2021 and participating in an international conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine, knowing and intending that the narcotics would be illegally imported into the United States.
Those are the charges, and the details about Úsuga David and his lethal organization are chilling. The CDG is one of the largest distributors of cocaine in the world.
Also known as “Los Urabeños” or “Clan Úsuga,” they are based in the Urabá region of Antioquia, Colombia, with an army of thousands of members (at its peak, around 6,000). To put that in perspective, he had more employees than the Boston and Miami police departments combined.
On the screen is a map of Colombia and a corridor of countries ultimately leading to the United States. In red, you can see the expansive territory under CDG control, much of which consisted of coastline. Within the territory under CDG control, you can see the Antioquia region, which served as the CDG’s base. You can see the Gulf of Uruba and three important port cities along the Pacific Ocean to the left and the Caribbean Sea to the right. You can see that the CDG territory is in the northwest part of the country, in closer proximity to the United States, and that these port cities provided direct access to waterways from which vessels could depart. And by the blue dotted lines, you can see some of the cocaine export routes departing from these areas that the CDG utilized to smuggle drugs into the United States.
Úsuga David’s cartel imported outrageous quantities of cocaine into the United States. The indictment charges more than 40 instances—40—where his cartel exported a ton or more of cocaine from Colombia. The CDG exports and coordinates the production, purchase, and transfer of weekly, multi-ton shipments of cocaine from Colombia into Central America and Mexico for ultimate importation into the United States. Law enforcement has intercepted some of these shipments, including over 10 tons of cocaine seized on boats off the coast of Panama and within a jungle region in Colombia.
As a high-ranking leader within the CDG since its inception and its CEO for the past decade, Úsuga David directed his army to commit brutal acts of violence, terror, and retaliation; to exert control over vast territorial regions of Colombia and its people; and to export staggering quantities of cocaine destined for the United States. This was incredibly lucrative and earned Úsuga David and his cartel billions in drug proceeds.
The illicit drugs that were sent into the United States caused addiction, violence and death, and tragically eroded the quality of life for residents of the communities affected, including many within the greater New York City area, and the nation more broadly.
The CDG’s drug trafficking activities funded and enabled Úsuga David’s rise to power. The CDG has used military tactics and weapons to control the most lucrative cocaine trafficking region within Colombia. Úsuga David’s paramilitary organization—thousands of soldiers, including “sicarios,” or hitmen – murdered, assaulted, kidnapped, tortured, and assassinated at Usuga David’s direction. and the CDG imposed a “tax” on any drug traffickers operating in its territory, charging fees for every kilogram of cocaine manufactured, stored, or transported through the region.
Úsuga David’s violence included public demonstrations of his power and repression of innocent civilians. He imposed mandatory shutdowns or “strikes,” a kind of Martial law where he ordered that all businesses in CDG-controlled territory remain closed and Colombian citizens within those regions had to remain at home. He ordered CDG soldiers to execute anyone who disobeyed the shutdowns’ rules.
At Úsuga David’s direction, the CDG also carried out organized campaigns (which they called “Plan Pistolas”) to kill Colombian law enforcement and military personnel using military-grade weapons, including grenades, explosives, and assault rifles, and to assassinate individuals who were believed to be cooperating with law enforcement. On numerous occasions, Úsuga David personally ordered the murder and torture of individuals deemed to be enemies of the CDG.
For years, Úsuga David evaded capture by moving through a web of rural safe houses in the jungles of Colombia and avoiding modern technology – living off the grid. At the same time, with an army of ruthless sicarios at his command, Úsuga David was able to expand the CDG’s territory and power. He believed he was essentially untouchable. Until now.
Úsuga David’s capture was the result of an extensive joint campaign by the Colombian National Police, Colombian Air Force, and National Army of Colombia that began in 2016. Prior to Úsuga David’s arrest, the Colombian government offered a $800,000 reward for information regarding his whereabouts and the United States offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to his arrest. Úsuga David was ultimately captured on October 23, 2021, in a rural hideout in Antioquia province, Colombia, near the Colombia-Panama border, following an operation involving 500 soldiers and 22 helicopters. President Ivan Duque of Colombia described the operation as “the biggest penetration of the jungle ever seen in the military history of our country.”
A case like this one requires an army of its own, and I am grateful to the work of my office and our partners, for putting an end to his reign of terror, and giving hope to the people of Colombia for a better, safer future.
To the people of Colombia: we are committed to seeking the truth about Úsuga David’s crimes and those who helped him, ensuring that they face consequences for those crimes, and recovering ill-gotten gains to return to the victims and their families.
I’d like to give special thanks to the DEA, HSI, NYPD and FBI Agents on this case; and to the United States Marshals Service for taking the lead in ensuring that the defendant is held securely and safely in the district while he awaits trial.
I’d like to extend my deep gratitude to the President of Colombia, the Colombian Attorney General’s Office, the Colombian National Police, the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Republic of Colombia and its law enforcement officers have risked, and too often lost, their lives in the pursuit of this evildoer. And the Colombian people have suffered greatly at the hands of Úsuga David and the CDG. We will honor their sacrifice and honor Colombia’s commitment to combat narco-trafficking by pursuing justice in this case for the victims and their families.
I’d also like to acknowledge the tremendous work by the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS) Judicial Attachés in Bogotá, Colombia and DOJ Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section Special Operations Division Trial Attorneys.
Finally, I’d like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Southern District of Florida, the Middle District of Florida, the Eastern District of Texas, and the Southern District of New York, for collaborating with us in this case. Prosecutors from those offices have demonstrated extraordinary professionalism and dedication by offering their assistance in furtherance of the case here in the Eastern District of New York.”