FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 01, 2005
TWO CONVICTED IN WEAPONS FOR DRUGS DEAL SENTENCED
(HOUSTON, TX) United States Attorney Chuck Rosenberg announced that Fanny Cecilia BARRERA de Amaris, 52, and Carlos Adolfo Romero-PANCHANO, 48, both Colombian nationals were convicted for their roles in a multi-million dollar weapons-for-drugs deal and sentenced to prison today by United States District Judge Sim Lake. At today's hearing, PANCHANO, responsible for soliciting members of a foreign terrorist organization to participate in weapons for drugs being brokered by his cousin, was sentenced to three years in federal prison. Fanny Cecilia BARRERA de Amaris, who inspected a cache of weapons on behalf of the terrorist organization during the course of the deal, was sentenced to five years and one month in prison. All federal prison terms are without parole. PANCHANO's sentence includes consideration by the court of his cooperation and substantial assistance to the United States in the investigation of the case. Both PANCHANO and BARRERA face deportation to Colombia following their release from prison.
Both BARRERA and PANCHANO pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to the AUC, a paramilitary organization originally designated a foreign terrorist organization by the United States Secretary of State on September 10, 2001. Barrera was successfully extradited from Colombia and was turned over to United States authorities on December 1, 2004, and is believed to be the first person ever extradited from Colombia for conspiring to provide arms to the AUC. PANCHANO was arrested on April 30, 2004, in Houston. Both defendants have been in federal custody since the date of their arrest.The convictions of BARRERA and PANCHANO are the result of an FBI undercover operation dubbed Operation White Terror. The investigation began in September 2001 when Uwe Jensen met an FBI confidential source and learned that the confidential source had connections to Eastern Europe. Jensen introduced the source to Carlos Ali ROMERO Varela, his boss, and negotiations began in meetings held in Houston for the confidential source to provide Warsaw Pact weapons to the AUC/United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia in exchange for cocaine. The deal was to be brokered by Romero and Jensen. Between October 2001, through approximately August 2002, Carlos Ali ROMERO-Varela, and Carlos Adolfo Romero-PANCHANO, ROMERO'S cousin, solicited various potential customers in Colombia, South America, for a $25 million dollar weapons for cocaine transaction. ROMERO arranged to have a copy of a CD-ROM displaying samples of Russian-made weapons mailed to PANCHANO in Medellin, Colombia. The CD-ROM included photographs of assault rifles including AK-47's, sub-machine guns, and sniper rifles as well as rocket propelled grenade launchers and shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles. PANCHANO, in turn, provided a copy of the CD-ROM to BARRERA. The CD-ROM was ultimately presented to potential customers within the AUC, including Elkin Arroyave Ruiz, also known as Commandante Napo, and Edgar Blanco-Puerta, also known as Commandante Emilio, both alleged members of the AUC.
On April 28, 2002, the FBI moved a cache of Warsaw Pact weapons to St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands (USVI). On that date, in St. Thomas, USVI, an undercover officer (“UCO”) met with Carlos Ali ROMERO-Varela and BARRERA. During the meeting, BARRERA introduced herself as a weapons inspector for the AUC.
Following the meeting with the UCO, ROMERO and BARRERA traveled by ferry to St. Croix, USVI. Inside an undercover warehouse, during a consensually recorded meeting, ROMERO and BARRERA were shown various Warsaw Pact weapons.
During the inspection, BARRERA handled many of the weapons presented. She also asked detailed questions about the effectiveness of various weapons, about ammunition, and about other technical aspects of the weapons. Following the inspection, ROMERO and BARRERA met again with the UCO. During the videotaped meeting, BARRERA told the UCO that she had been impressed with the weapons and would compile a report to be forwarded to higher-ranking members of the AUC.
Arroyave-Ruiz, 37, Blanco-Puerta, 59, Uwe Jensen, 69, and Carlos Ali Romero-Varela, 46, have all been convicted for their involvement in providing material support to a terrorist organization through this “weapons for drugs” deal and are pending sentencing on May 31, 2006. These four defendants, all of whom are in federal custody without bond, face substantial prison terms at sentencing. The conviction for providing material support to a terrorist organization carries a maximum of 15 years imprisonment. Blanco-Puerta, Jensen and Romero-Varela were also convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and face a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment for this conviction.
This case is the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation conducted by the Houston offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeff Vaden and Stuart A. Burns.
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