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Columbian narco-terror leader sentenced to almost 25 years in U.S. prison

Leal Garcia

A high-ranking member of the FARC Columbian narco-terror group was sentenced to almost a quarter century behind bars for his role in sending tons of drugs into the U.S. in the late 1990’s.

Ignacio Leal Garcia, who U.S. federal authorities call a “high ranking leader” of the narco-terrorist organization Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) was sentenced on Jan. 27  in a Washington, DC, federal courthouse to 294 months in prison for conspiring to import tons of cocaine into the U.S.

Leal Garcia, said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Jan. 27 statement, was extradited from Colombia to the U.S. in July 2010 on an indictment that charged 50 of the FARC’s top leaders with drug trafficking. He was convicted last September after a three-week jury trial.

“Today’s sentence of Ignacio Leal Garcia marks another important milestone in our campaign to dismantle the FARC leadership. And while this is another important victory, our efforts to capture, prosecute, and punish these narcoterrorists continue unabated,” said Bharara.

Court documents and the indictment characterized FARC, which occupies large swaths of territory in Colombia, as a hierarchical organization comprised of twelve 12,000 to 18,000 members, led by a central leadership group. The documents said the organization is made up of a number of distinct military units, called Fronts, organized by geographical location. The Fronts, in turn, are grouped into seven “blocs.” The FARC is responsible for the production of more than half of the world's supply of cocaine and nearly two-thirds of the cocaine imported into the U.S., they said.

Leal Garcia, said the documents, was the leader of FARC’s 10th Front, in the Eastern Bloc from the late 1990s until his capture in April, 2009.  He controlled all cocaine production and cocaine trafficking in Arauca, a region of Colombia stretching over 9000 square miles near Colombia's border with Venezuela. To exercise this control, Leal Garcia organized regular meetings in the various municipalities in Arauca at which he threatened death or exile for anyone who failed to cooperate with the group’s control of coca farming, cocaine production and cocaine trafficking in the region. Before his capture, Leal Garcia orchestrated the manufacture and distribution of ton-quantities of cocaine in Colombia intended for importation into the U.S. said the documents. Leal Garcia arranged for the proceeds from the sale to buy weapons, explosives, and other supplies for guerrillas in the FARC's Eastern Bloc.

Four other FARC leaders extradited with Leal Garcia have already been sentenced. All received sentences of over 20 years in prison, according to the Justice Department.