Nearly one year after he was arrested, an alleged Mexican drug kingpin is now in New York to face charges he co-led the drug ring that shipped more than 100 tons of cocaine to the United States.
Luis Rodriguez-Olivera was extradited from Mexico on Thursday, in order to appear later today in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York said in a press release.
"Cloaked in subterfuge, Rodriguez-Olivera traveled under a false name and posed as a legitimate business owner," said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. "But his ruse was no match for the combined efforts of law enforcement here and abroad."
Rodriguez and his brothers Esteban, Daniel and Miguel were part of a group - called the "Los Gueritos" by Mexican authorities, and "Los Gueros" by those in the United States - that allegedly smuggled drugs into the United States over at least eight years.
The crew worked under the leadership of Mexico's most-wanted fugitive, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Mexican authorities said.
But U.S. authorities have offered a slightly different story, saying they broke away from El Chapo's federation around 2005 and tried to work independently. Eventually, pressured by the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels, the brothers moved their operations to Leon and established a strong relationship with the Zetas drug cartel.
Of the Rodriguez-Olivera brothers, Esteban was arrested in 2008, and Miguel was killed in a shootout in August 2011, Mexico's Ministry of Public Security said.
The two surviving brothers were indicted in New York in 2009 on accusations of drug trafficking. Among other charges, Rodriguez-Olivera is accused of being the leader of a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiring to import and distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and conspiring to launder money.
Then, in late December 2011, Mexican police arrested Luis Rodriguez-Olivera as he was trying to fly out of that country using a false name. At the time, the U.S. State Department was offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
The U.S. federal indictment alleges that the brothers imported more than 100 tons (100,000 kilograms) of cocaine into the United States between 1996 and 2008 - including truckloads with over 2 tons of the drug shipped between 2004 and 2006 to New York City alone.
In 2005, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents seized about $2.1 million in drug proceeds bound for Mexico, which they traced to an alleged New York co-conspirator, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The U.S. federal prosecutor alleged that Rodriguez-Olivera laundered proceeds from drug sales in various ways, including by investing in seemingly legitimate businesses.
If convicted on all charges, Rodriguez-Olivera could be sentenced to as few as 20 years and as long as life in prison, in addition to being forced to forfeit $50 million, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.