Drug kingpin gets 45 years in US jail

October 22, 2009 12:00 am

, MIAMI, Oct 22 – A court in Miami sentenced Colombian drug kingpin Diego Montoya to 45 years in prison on Wednesday following his guilty plea on trafficking, murder and racketeering charges.

Montoya, 48, whose Norte del Valle cartel once supplied well over half the Colombian cocaine smuggled into the United States and Europe, had agreed to serve the time as part of a plea deal back in August.

Once an FBI top-ten fugitive, he also signed a document detailing his rise to the top of Colombia’s cocaine underworld.

Prosecutors estimate that between 1990 and 2004, Norte del Valle exported more than 1.2 million pounds (500 tonnes) of cocaine, worth in excess of 10 billion dollars, from Colombia to the United States.

Federal judge Cecilia Altonaya gave Montoya the maximum prison sentence requested by prosecutors, but dismissed a dozen other charges against him after he remorsefully pleaded guilty.

She also ordered Montoya to pay 500,000 dollars to the family of John Garcia, a former associate of his who was kidnapped and beaten to death in 2003 on suspicion he was an informant for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

According to the document drawn up by prosecutors, Montoya, later known as "Don Diego," entered the drug trade shortly after his father’s death when he was just 14 years old.

Starting as a driver, he later managed a cocaine lab before rising rapidly through the ranks to head the organization that emerged as heir to the infamous Cali cartel and its rival in Medellin, run by Pablo Escobar.

Montoya was captured when police stormed a ranch in western Colombia in September 2007, despite his efforts to flee as a government helicopter approached.

Within an hour he was found hiding under leaves in a creek-bed. Just over a year later he was extradited to the United States.

Colombian authorities believe Montoya was behind more than 1,500 murders in the country.

His brother Eugenio pleaded guilty to conspiring to import cocaine in January this year and was sentenced to 30 years in a US prison.


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