HomeNewsBriefPlea Deal Lands Colombia Drug Boss Light Sentence in US Court
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Plea Deal Lands Colombia Drug Boss Light Sentence in US Court

COLOMBIA / 15 FEB 2017 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

A Colombian drug boss whose surrender to US authorities helped decimate what was once among the country's most powerful criminal organizations has negotiated his way into receiving just a nine-year prison sentence in a US court.

Luis Enrique Calle Serna was sentenced on February 10 by a New York court, after pleading guilty to trafficking drugs heading to the United States, El Tiempo reported. Calle Serna was once among the most important drug traffickers in Colombia before turning himself in to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in October 2012 and negotiating a deal with US authorities.

Calle Serna was a leading member of the Rastrojos criminal organization, according to the New York court indictment, while his brother, Javier Antonio Calle Serna, alias "Comba," was the head of the organization. Javier surrendered to the DEA a few months before Luis, and is currently awaiting a sentence.

SEE ALSO:  Luis E. Calle Serna Profile

Since Luis Enrique Calle Serna has already spent five years in US custody, he could be out of prison as early as 2020, reported El Tiempo. According to court documents from 2015, Calle Serna will likely be sent back to Colombia once his sentence is over.

Rastrojos member Héctor Eftén Meneses Yela, alias "Guara," a Sinaloa Cartel associate, was also sentenced to six years, and is expected to be released immediately, according to El Tiempo.

InSight Crime Analysis

Calle Serna's relatively short sentence draws attention to the issue of extradited drug traffickers receiving lighter sentences in the US than in their home countries. Unlike in the era of Pablo Escobar, who went to war with the Colombian state over the issue of extradition, being sent to the United States has become less of a threat and more of an opportunity to strike deals for lighter jail sentences. For example, a court in Washington, DC sentenced one of Colombia's most notorious paramilitary chiefs, Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias "Jorge 40," to just 16 years in prison in November 2015.

At the same time, the justice system in Colombia has struggled to investigate and prosecute high-profile criminals independently of the United States. Juan Carlos Calle Serna, Luis Enrique's brother and an alleged key Rastrojos operative, was freed in early 2016 after a short prison stint, as Colombian authorities were unable to prosecute him on drug trafficking or money laundering charges.

SEE ALSO:  Rastrojos News and Profile

The Rastrojos was founded in 2002 as an armed wing of the Norte del Valle Cartel. It later expanded across Colombia, and became one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the country.

With the Calle Serna brothers' surrender and the capture of a third leader, Diego Perez Henao, alias "Diego Rastrojo" in 2012, the Rastrojos' power rapidly crumbled. Nevertheless, recent security operations suggest that the group is still controlling lucrative trafficking operations on Colombia's Pacific coast, allegedly under orders from the incarcerated brothers.

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