The dismantling of a trafficking organization in Argentina has revealed a little-known drug gang leader who managed to operate from inside a prison in one of the country’s crime hotspots.
Julio Andrés Rodríguez Granthon, alias “the Peruvian," who has been held in the prison of Piñero since June 2019, is accused of trafficking high-quality cocaine in Rosario, La Capital reported.
On November 8, police arrested four men and three women alleged to be part of his organization, seized 16 kilograms of the drug and nearly $190,000 as part of 11 raids across the city.
In the days that followed, 27 more raids took place, including in several prisons across the country. More drugs were seized and another 15 people were arrested.
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Investigators said Rodríguez Granthon had links to Los Monos, a crime group whose leaders are also held in the Piñero prison, La Nación reported.
Argentina Federal Police Chief Néstor Roncaglia said the operation was the result of a three-month-long investigation. The firsts arrests were made when two of the organization's members attempted to "handover nearly 7 kilograms of cocaine to another two who had nearly 3 million pesos ($50,300) in cash with them," he said.
InSight Crime Analysis
Criminal gangs operating from behind bars is no surprise to authorities in Argentina but the complexity of this operation by a seemingly unknown group has surely raised eyebrows.
The Piñero prison, located 30 kilometers from the city of Rosario, is home to high-profile drug traffickers like Los Monos. Last December, the leaders of the group were sentenced to long prison terms on drug trafficking charges. It came a few months after, in a separate trial, members of the group had been sentenced on charges of racketeering and murder.
Rosario is also one of Argentina’s top drug trafficking hubs. It runs along land routes that connect to neighboring producer countries Bolivia and Paraguay. Traffickers in Rosario also are feeding a growing consumer markets in Argentina, especially the capital Buenos Aires.
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Drug trafficking groups within the Piñero prison have long operated from behind its walls, turning it into a center of operations. For years, prison personnel have been accused of corruption.
Earlier his year, an operation uncovered more than 50 mobile phones, cash and pen drives authorities believe drug traffickers use to coordinate their business from inside the jail.
Authorities also recently uncovered a cash-for-visit scheme where relatives of some high profile criminals held in Piñero charged others to visit their loved ones.
To be sure, prisoners in Argentina are also victims of poor living conditions and overcrowding
In fact, Argentina’s national prison administration estimates prisons are at 120 percent overcapacity and that the prison population had increased by almost 50 percent in a decade.
Authorities say the Piñero prison is also suffering from overcrowding, with around 700 prisoners held there on federal drug trafficking charges.