Colombian in drug, uranium plots gets 12 years in U.S. prison

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 04, 2016 4:42 PM

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Colombian who pleaded guilty to U.S. narcotics charges stemming from a probe that began with him trying to help a paramilitary group get uranium for a "dirty bomb" to attack the U.S. embassy in Bogota was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Jhon Jairo Cruz Trejos, who authorities call a freelance weapons trafficker, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan after pleading guilty in November to charges including conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.

Cruz Trejos, who is expected to get credit for time spent in custody after his February 2014 arrest in Colombia, said in court that "a lot that was done there was bluster," adding that he had been seeking money to fund his legitimate business as a mechanic.

Buchwald said while some evidence indicated he lacked criminal sophistication, "that evidence is inconsistent with the amount of discussion about weaponry and the numerous discussions the defendant was involved in over numerous years."

Prosecutors said in 2009, a Colombian claiming ties to Colombian paramilitary groups and the Venezuelan government began talking with a Federal Bureau of Investigation source posing as a drug trafficker tied to Russian organized crime.

The Colombian later introduced the source to Cruz Trejos, his partner, who indicated he had ties to the Colombian paramilitary groups Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), prosecutors said.

In meetings, Cruz Trejos expressed his desire to obtain weapons, including highly enriched uranium, which he and his partner said FARC would use to make a bomb to target the U.S. embassy in Bogota, prosecutors said.

Cruz Trejos said he also represented the Venezuelan government, and referenced then-President Hugo Chavez, prosecutors said.

His partner told the FBI source that FARC wanted 125 grams of uranium and the Venezuelan government wanted two kilograms of the substance, prosecutors said.

No deal took place. A FARC member, Franklin Ramos Sanchez, in 2013 said FARC had postponed its attack plans, prosecutors said.

Cruz Trejos and Sanchez, who died in 2015, meanwhile proposed supplying cocaine to FBI sources they thought were Russian organized crime members to sell in the United States to finance buying weapons, prosecutors said.

Cruz Trejos in 2013 provided the purported Russians with 17 kilograms of cocaine, in order to obtain 100 rifles and machine guns plus surface-to-air missiles that he could sell to either the FARC or the ELN, prosecutors said.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)