Colombia has captured one of the Oficina de Envigado's last remaining leaders, dealing a major blow to an organization that traces its roots back to the Medellin Cartel and has served as the criminal counterweight to the Urabeños.
On January 9, anti-drug police arrested Julian Andrey Gonzalez Vasquez, alias "Barny," in Bogota, Colombia, reported El Espectador. Colombian authorities have identified Gonzalez -- who has been on the US Treasury Department's kingpin list since September 2014 -- as the head of an Oficina de Envigado faction and the leader of La Terraza, a powerful Medellin assassin network originally run by the successor to Pablo Escobar, Diego Fernando Murillo, alias "Don Berna". Gonzalez has also been implicated in the July 2012 murder of two anti-drug police and the 2008 deaths of three individuals, reported El Tiempo.
Earlier on the day of his capture, Barny had returned to Colombia from Costa Rica, where he had been hiding out for several years. Colombian authorities learned of his location in August 2014 after he was involved in a drunk-driving accident, but were unable to request his extradition because he had become a Costa Rican citizen.
According to El Tiempo, Colombian police reported that Barny had returned to his home country to meet with lawyers and attempt to negotiate with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He also allegedly planned to reorganize the criminal structure in Medellin's neighborhoods, known as the comunas.
Although Barny's criminal partners the Urabeños would theoretically be the main beneficiaries of his capture, Colombian security forces have also gone after that group. Urabeños leader Santander Franco Jimenez, alias "Omar," was arrested on January 8, and authorities confirmed the capture of the supposed fourth-in-command, alias "Abeja" the following day.
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Colombian authorities have dealt several major blows to the Oficina de Envigado in recent years, beginning with the capture of warring Oficina faction leaders Maximiliano Bonilla, alias "Valenciano," and Erick Vargas, alias "Sebastian," in 2011 and 2012, respectively. With Barny's capture, the Oficina has lost one of the last major leaders capable of uniting different factions. In his stead, Fredy Alonso Mira Perez, alias "Fredy Colas" who is also on the US Treasury's kingpin list, appears to be the group's only remaining heavyweight. According to El Tiempo, Mira was captured in November 2014, but freed because there were no arrest warrants in his name.
SEE ALSO: Oficina de Envigado News and Profile
El Tiempo reported that Barny got his start in Colombia's criminal underworld by importing shoes from Panama to Medellin, where he met Leonardo Muñoz, alias "Douglas," a former Oficina leader who was captured in 2009. In addition to running an assassin network, Barny allegedly became a practitioner of the Santeria religion, and became known as a "brujo" (witch). He unsuccessfully tried to use Santeria to evade capture and hide from his enemies.