Colombia Capo May Be First Ever Extradited to United States, Twice

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A former member of Colombia’s Norte del Valle Cartel was the first Colombian to be extradited to face charges in the United States on two different occasions, a cautionary tale regarding the low sentences often handed to capos in the United States.

José Sánchez Cristancho, alias “El hombre del overol” (“the Overall Man”), was extradited on February 28. He had already been imprisoned in the United States between 2001 and 2006, and had spent another three years on probation. It did not last, as the US government charged that in 2014 he allegedly participated in a $1 million bank fraud, El Espectador reported.

Sánchez Cristancho then became a fugitive in Colombia, where he allegedly resumed his criminal activities, until his arrest in Bogotá in March 2017. His extradition to the United States was approved in October 2017.

The Overall Man was one of the leaders of the Norte del Valle Cartel under the command of Orlando Henao Montoya, who also used the same pseudonym in an effort to deceive authorities and make them believe that Sánchez Cristancho was the leader of the organization.

InSight Crime Analysis

Sánchez Cristancho may be the first Colombian capo extradited to the United States on two separate instances, but he is not the first crime boss to resume his criminal activities after having regained his freedom.

The case of Víctor Patiño, alias “El Químico,” and that of Carlos José Robayo, alias “Guacamayo,” both of whom were also former members of the Norte del Valle Cartel who returned to Colombia to reclaim their properties, launched a bloody confrontation with a rival group the Rastrojos in the process.

Professor and criminal ethnographer David Martínez Amador believes that unlike the great Mexican or Colombian drug traffickers, it is relatively easy for drug traffickers to return to the criminal world after serving short sentences in the United States.

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“If we talk about the big Colombian or Mexican capos,” Martínez Amador told InSight Crime, “The sentences are draconian and, although they do not stipulate life in prison in all cases, the capos return at an age where it is more difficult to return to the organization and compete with new leadership.” 

However, relatively short sentences such as that against Sánchez Cristancho generate rational incentives to return to the criminal world.

“The contacts are still valid, and there are spaces available. It is illogical to think that all of these individuals tend to commit themselves to not reoffend,” Martínez Amador said.

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