Key Member of International Cocaine Conspiracy Involving Corrupt Air Traffic Controllers and Clandestine Airstrips Extradited to U.S. | USAO-CDCA

         LOS ANGELES – A Mexican national charged with coordinating shipments for an international drug trafficking organization that planned to smuggle tens of millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico for eventual sale in the United States has been extradited from Canada and is scheduled to be arraigned today on federal narcotics charges.

         Miguel Hadad Facusseh, 37, a.k.a. “Greñas” and “Barbas,” arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday evening and is expected to make his initial appearance in United States District Court this afternoon.

         Hadad is one of 15 defendants charged in an indictment that describes an organization that smuggled large quantities of cocaine on aircraft, using clandestine airstrips and corrupt air traffic control officials in Colombia to avoid detection. As one of the key members of the organization, Hadad allegedly was responsible for coordinating operations from Mexico, including financing flights, supplying pilots, and setting up clandestine airstrips, according to the indictment that was filed in 2019.

         Despite the corrupt air traffic controllers and former law enforcement officials in Colombia who were responsible for ensuring that aircraft coming from Mexico could enter Colombian airspace and retrieve cocaine shipments, the indictment outlines a November 5, 2017 incident in which the Colombian Air Force intercepted a plane coming from Mexico, forced it to land, and then destroyed it with machine gun fire. Near the site of the plane’s wreckage, Colombian law enforcement officers found approximately 515 kilograms (1,135 pounds) of packaged cocaine that was ready to be loaded onto the plane.

         In addition to Hadad, three other defendants named in the indictment were extradited from Colombia in late 2020 – Tomas Visbal Blanco, 67; Rafael Enrique Noguera Abello, 45; and Enrique Rafael Noguera Ramirez, 38. The indictment alleges that these defendants handled logistics for the organization, including managing a stash location for the cocaine, maintaining a clandestine airstrip where the plane from Mexico was to retrieve the cocaine shipment in November 2017, and preparing for the aircraft’s refueling upon its arrival. The three Colombian nationals have pleaded not guilty to the charges in the indictment, and they are scheduled to go on trial on October 12.

         An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

         The investigation into this narcotics trafficking organization is being conducted by special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which received substantial assistance from the Colombia National Police’s Dirección de Investigación Criminal e Interpol (DIJIN) and Colombia’s Fiscalía General de La Nación. This investigation was conducted with the support of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in securing the defendants’ extradition from Canada and Colombia.

         This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alexander B. Schwab of the Major Frauds Section and Chelsea Norell of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.

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