HomeNewsBriefPolice Convict Chile Drug Trafficker After Discovering Secret Code
BRIEF

Police Convict Chile Drug Trafficker After Discovering Secret Code

CHILE / 21 MAR 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Authorities in Chile have used a secret code belonging to drug dealers to convict a suspect, in a case showing that, while criminal methods are constantly evolving, the most basic techniques can still throw authorities off the trail.

In 2010, Chile's national police, the Carabineros, arrested Leonardo Yañez Sepulveda with 80 grams of cocaine in Santiago. In his wallet, they found notes that detailed a coded language used by the traffickers to communicate via text messages, reported La Tercera. The notes contained a full explanation of how to use the coded alphabet, and how to decipher incoming coded messages (click on La Tercera's image below to see full-sized original).

The notes state: "The idea is to avoid using spaces, so it will be impossible for the investigative police (PDI) to decipher. They won't know that we are communicating, and it will be impossible to understand, unless they get this piece of paper, which you can't just have anywhere; you have to hide it."

Prosecutor Macarena Cañas said that for the authorities who analyzed the note, the find was completely novel. "It's like the Rosetta Stone; you have a complete dictionary," he said.

Four years later, on February 4, 2014, this same code was used to convict Yañez for drug trafficking and sentence him to three years in prison.

InSight Crime Analysis

There are plenty of examples of the ever-changing modalities used by drug traffickers to avoid detection. Trafficking methods can include converting cocaine to liquid form, hiding it in consumable products such as pastries, and having "mules" swallow liquid capsules. Major drug trafficking organizations often use coded language over radios tuned to special frequencies to communicate and track security force movement, and the equipment can be quite sophisticated.

This case in Chile, which evokes thoughts of an old mystery novel, takes things back to basics, illustrating that the simplest strategies can also still be used effectively at the local level. (While the case is not explained in detail, the fact Yañez was carrying only 80 grams of cocaine and received a relatively short sentence suggests he was little more than a street dealer.)

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Chile

It is also noteworthy that Chilean authorities managed to use this code, once they deciphered it, to achieve a conviction. The majority of criminal trials in Latin America continue to be dependent on witness testimony, which can be unreliable or hampered by fear and intimidation, disrupting justice in major cases.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CHILE / 15 MAR 2017

More than 400 kilograms of high-quality marijuana from Colombia were seized in Santiago, Chile, a sign that Colombian traffickers may…

CHILE / 3 FEB 2012

A key source of drug precursor chemicals, and with domestic cocaine consumption that's among the highest in Latin America, Chile…

CHILE / 25 AUG 2021

A series of seizures and drug raids across Latin America have revealed how previously niche high-strength marijuana products are establishing…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…

THE ORGANIZATION

Coverage of Fallen Paraguay Prosecutor Makes Headlines

20 MAY 2022

The murder of leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci, while on honeymoon in Colombia, has drawn attention to the evolution of organized crime in Paraguay. While 17 people have been arrested…