ALBANY — The Malone Police Department was one of nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies in an investigation of an international drug trafficking operation that resulted in five men pleading guilty on Friday to trafficking and money laundering.
The five defendants — one Canadian, two Colombians and two U.S. residents — admitted to moving 300 kilograms of cocaine and laundering roughly $1 million through upstate New York and Canada between August 2014 and March 2016.
The announcement of the guilty pleas was made through a press release from U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith; James J. Hunt, special agent in charge of the New York Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; James D. Robnett, special agent in charge of the New York field office of the IRS-Criminal Investigation; and Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly of Homeland Security Investigations, Buffalo field office.
“This sophisticated organization, which used transnational networks to move huge amounts of cocaine and illegal money through our communities, has now been dismantled thanks to the cutting-edge work of federal agents and their effective collaboration with our law enforcement partners in other states and countries, particularly our Canadian counterparts,” said Mr. Jaquith. “As this case demonstrates, we will use all of our resources to pursue foreign-based drug traffickers and bring them to justice.”
The defendants are:
■ Iraklis Haviaropoulos, 41, of Montreal, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
■ Carlos Alberto Ocampo Garcia, 56, of Cali, Colombia, who pleaded to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
■ Jose Maruricio Ortiz Bolanos, 30, of Cali, who pleaded to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
■ Eduardo Nunez-Serna, 44, of Chicago, who pleaded to conspiracy to commit promotional money laundering.
■ James DeSantis, 56, of Pompano Beach, Fla., who pleaded to conspiracy to commit promotional money laundering.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office news release, Haviaropoulos purchased cocaine from — among other sources — Ocampo Garcia in Piura, on the northern coast of Peru.
Pilots working for Haviaropoulos picked up the cocaine at a clandestine airstrip outside of Piura, flew it to Guatemala, and then on to Mexico. In Mexico, truck drivers picked up the cocaine, smuggled it into the United States across the Mexican border, and then smuggled it into Quebec. Some of the cocaine crossed through the Northern District of New York. During the investigation, more than 337 kilograms of cocaine were seized, as well as fentanyl and marijuana.
The organization collected cash from selling marijuana in the United States and cocaine in Canada. The cash was delivered to couriers in — among other places — Albany and Ulster counties in New York, and Montreal, so that the cash could be delivered, either by a courier or by wire, to the cocaine suppliers to pay for more cocaine.
At least $1 million was sent to Chicago, Los Angeles, Peru and Colombia; money was also wired to China. During the investigation, more than $1 million was seized.
The Malone Police Department became involved after an associate of the ringleaders was stopped in the village in December 2014, according to Malone Police Chief Christopher Premo. Village police discovered that he possessed 36 pounds of marijuana, as well as 3.5 ounces of fentanyl, an opioid. DeSantis, in a second car, was later stopped by village police with cooperation from the U.S. Border Patrol.
Due to its assistance, the Malone department received a portion of the seized drug assets through the federal Equitable Sharing Program.
The investigation was led by the three federal agencies, working closely with the Sûreté du Québec, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Peruvian National Police and the Colombian National Police. In addition to Malone Police, assisting agencies included the U.S. Border Patrol, New York State Police, Chicago City Police Department, Massachusetts State Police and the Watervliet Police Department.