A doctor and a notary’s office in Colombia allegedly helped at least three drug traffickers and paramilitary leaders fake their own deaths to avoid capture.
On August 7 Colombian police announced that the same doctor, Augusto Gallego, who faked the death certificate of drug kingpin Camilo Torres Martinez (pictured above) also provided fraudulent documents for at least two other wanted criminals.
Upon capturing Torres, alias “Fritanga,” on an island in the Caribbean in June, police were surprised to discover that the suspect had been officially declared dead.
The authorities also implicated a Bogota notary’s office in the scheme. In addition to issuing Torres’ fake documents, the office allegedly provided death certificates for multiple associates of Carlos Mario Jiménez Naranjo, alias “Macaco,” the extradited former leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). El Tiempo reports that Dr. Gallego signed death certificates for two men whose names and identification match those of José Alberto and Carlos Alberto Piedrahíta Zabala, two of Jimenez’s lieutenants who led the AUC’s operations in the southern department of Caqueta.
The doctor, who works at a hospital and owns a pharmacy in the department of Cundinamarca, maintains that he is innocent and that he was set up by a funeral home employee. Until the District Attorney’s Office issues a warrant for his arrest, he may continue to practice medicine.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although there are few known examples of criminals actually pulling it off, pretending to be dead is probably the best way for a drug trafficker to drop off the authorities’ radar. Torres, at least, made the mistake of continuing to live a flamboyant lifestyle after his supposed demise; police arrested him during his extravagant island wedding, which was attended by several Colombian celebrities.
Conspiracy theories about drug lords who faked their own death range from the absurd to the potentially plausible. After former head of the Juarez Cartel, Amado Carrillo Fuentes, died during a botched plastic surgery operation in 1997 that was later ruled a homicide, many Mexicans believed that the kingpin had staged his own death and was still at large. More recently, some have theorized that Familia Michoacana leader “El Chayo,” who was killed in a shootout with police in 2010 but whose body was never found, faked his death in order to clandestinely assume control of the Knights Templar.