Colombian Criminal Arrest Reminder of Dissolved Cartel’s Influence

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Authorities arrested a former leader of a now dissolved Colombian drug trafficking organization, a sign that the group’s legacy in the country’s underworld lives on. 

A joint operation carried out by Interpol and Colombian authorities led to the capture of José Orlando Sánchez Cristancho on March 26 in Facatativá, in Colombia’s Cundinamarca department, reported El Tiempo.

Sánchez, better known under the alias of “El Hombre del Overol” (“The Man in Overalls”), was allegedly one of the leaders of the Norte del Valle Cartel (NDVC), a powerful Colombian drug trafficking group that emerged out of the ashes of the infamous Cali cartel.

Sánchez had already been arrested in June 2001 in Florida on money laundering conspiracy charges. He served 63 months (a little over 5 years) in prison and 3 years on bail in the United States. Once returned to Colombia, authorities believe Sánchez resumed his criminal activities, and his name appeared on Interpol’s “Red Notices” list.

A district court in Florida has requested his extradition to face charges related to money laundering and bank fraud.

InSight Crime Analysis

Sánchez’s arrest can be read as a sign that the legacy and influence of the NDVC continues to influence Colombia’s criminal map, even though much of the criminal network has been dismantled. 

Authorities claim Sánchez had been one of the NDVC’s leaders, but there appears to be some confusion around his nickname — “The Man in Overalls.” Without downplaying Sánchez’s importance within the group, evidence suggests the cartel’s founder, Orlando Henao Montoya (now deceased), went by the same pseudonym.

SEE ALSO: Norte del Valle Cartel Profile

The NDVC originated from the breakup of the Cali cartel, and went on to become one of the wealthiest drug trafficking groups in the country. Estimates from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States indicate that, at its height, the cartel was responsible for 60 percent of the cocaine shipped to the United States. Internal fights and treachery led to the group’s implosion: by 2010, most of the NDVC leadership had either been killed or captured.

NDVC splinter groups eventually gave rise to and became part of several new, independent criminal organizations, including the Rastrojos and Urabeños.

Sánchez is not the first NDVC member to have returned to Colombia after having served his sentence in the United States. Victor Patiño Fomeque, alias “El Quimico,” (the Chemist) was another prominent figure within the group who negotiated his surrender with US authorities, and eventually returned to Colombia, where authorities believe he may have returned to his criminal activities.

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