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House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Crime,
Committee on the Judiciary,
Washington, DC.

    The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9:30 a.m., in room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Bill McCollum (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.

    Present: Representatives Bill McCollum, Asa Hutchinson, George W. Gekas.

    Also present: Representative John Conyers, Jr.

    Staff present: Paul McNulty, chief counsel; Dan Bryant, counsel; Kara Norris, staff assistant; and David Yassky, minority counsel.


    Mr. MCCOLLUM. This hearing of the Subcommittee on Crime will come to order. This morning we have an extraordinary opportunity to take a long look into the inner operations of a Colombian drug-trafficking cartel.

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    This morning we will question under oath a former member of one of the most notorious Colombian cartels. Prior to his arrest in 1996, our witness helped lead one of the Medellin cartel's largest trafficking organizations in New York City. I will say more about this in a moment.

    The backdrop to this hearing is as plain as it is alarming. Over the past decade, Colombian drug cartels have posed one of the greatest threats to the United States that this country has ever faced. With untold billions of dollars at their disposal, with technology often more advanced than that of our top law enforcement officers and agencies, and with a willingness to use unmitigated violence, Colombian drug cartels have trafficked literally thousands upon thousands of metric tons of cocaine into the United States through the last decade. Close to 600 metric tons of cocaine will leave Colombia for the United States this year alone.

    Lest anyone be tempted to conclude that this is a far-away problem that has no effect on his or her own life, I would invite that person to reconsider. When more drugs enter this country, the supply on the streets increases. And that means prices drop, making it easier for addicts, and particularly kids, to get their hands on dangerous mind-altering substances. And that leads to wasted lives, unacceptably high levels of violent crime, and billions dollar price tags annually for American taxpayers.

    In October 1997, the story in Washington, DC., Orlando, Florida, and almost every city around the country is a sad one when it comes to drugs. Drugs are more plentiful, purer, and cheaper than they were in the early 1990's, and that has meant that far more of our children are becoming drug users.

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    But as much as we know about the drug trafficking trade, one part of the trade that we know surprising little about is how Colombian drug organizations operate in the United States. How do they move their shipments from the port of entry in the United States to the streets of our cities? And more importantly, how do they get them to the individuals who use them? Who directs those shipments? How do they store the drugs once they have arrived in their targeted cities? How do they then sell the drugs, and who are their clients? How do they seek to avoid law enforcement? And, more importantly, how do they get illegal drug proceeds back to Colombia?

    This morning, we will get answers to these questions from someone who has been on the inside. Our only witness to testify this morning is someone who worked for the Medellin cartel, and who, over the course of a number of years, became acquainted with its operations in New York and Colombia. At the time of his arrest in 1996, he was being groomed to take over as chief of the branch operations in New York City. He spoke frequently with the head of the cartel in Colombia and met with him in Colombia on a number of occasions. In short, he is ideally positioned to provide insights into the inner workings of the Medellin drug cartel. I look forward to the testimony of our witness this morning.

    [The prepared statement of Mr. McCollum follows:]


    This hearing of the Subcommittee on Crime will come to order.

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    We have a unique opportunity this morning. I don't think it's overstating the case to call this an unprecedented opportunity.

    This morning we will be able to question, under oath, a former member of one of the most notorious Colombian cartels. Our witness this morning—prior to his arrest in 1996—helped to lead one of the Medellin cartel's largest trafficking organizations in New York City. But more on our witness in a moment.

    The backdrop to this hearing is as plain as it is alarming. Over the past decade, Colombian drug cartels have posed one of the greatest threats to the United States that this country has ever faced. With untold billions of dollars at their disposal, with technology often more advanced that of our top law enforcement agencies, and with a willingness to use unmitigated violence, Colombian drug cartels have trafficked literally thousands and thousands of metric tons of cocaine into the United States throughout the last decade. Close to 600 metric tons of cocaine will leave Colombia for the United States this year alone.

    Lest anyone be tempted to conclude that this is a far-away problem that has no effect on their own life, I would invite you to reconsider. When more drugs enter the country, the supply on the streets increases. And that means prices drop, making its easier for addicts—and kids—to get their hands on dangerous, mind-altering substances. And that leads to wasted lives and unacceptably high levels of violent crime.

    In October, 1997, the story in Washington, D.C., Orlando, Florida, and almost every city around the country is a sad one when it comes to drugs: Drugs are more plentiful, purer, and cheaper than they were in the early 1990s. And that has meant that more of our children have become drug users.
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    But, as much as we know about the drug trafficking trade, one part of the trade that we know surprisingly little about is how Colombian drug organizations operate in the U.S. How do they move their shipments from the port of entry in the United States to the streets of my city or yours? Who directs those shipments? How do they store the drugs once they've arrived at their targeted city? How do they then sell the drugs, and who are their clients? How do they seek to avoid law enforcement? And, importantly, how do they get the illegal drug proceeds back to Colombia?

    This morning we'll get answers to these questions from someone who has been on the inside. Our only witness to testify this morning is someone who worked for the Medellin Cartel, and who, over the course of a number of years, became acquainted with its operations in New York and Colombia. At the time of his arrest in 1996, he was being groomed to take over as chief of the branch operations in New York City. He spoke frequently with the head of the cartel in Colombia, and met with him in Colombia on a number of occasions. In short, he his ideally positioned to provide insights into the inner workings of the Medellin drug cartel.

    I look forward to the testimony of our witness this morning, and turn to my colleague from Arkansas, Mr. Hutchinson, for any opening statement he might have.


    Our witness this morning is Mr. Rodriguez. I have already spoken briefly about his background, and for obvious reasons I will not be elaborating much more. As I stated, his involvement with the Medellin drug cartel in the 1990s has provided him with important insights into the workings of the cartel and its operations in the United States.
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    I do wish to state for the record that Mr. Rodriguez did not seek out the Crime Subcommittee. He cooperated with law enforcement after his arrest and guilty plea, long before the Crime Subcommittee had heard of him. Once we did learn of Mr. Rodriguez's status, we sought him out, at which time he cooperated fully with the Subcommittee's investigation.

    I appreciate your cooperation a great deal, Mr. Rodriguez.

    [You'll need to swear the witness and the interpreter in. You can do so simultaneously.]

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. At this point, I would like to acknowledge the fact that there may be somebody else who wants to make an opening statement. I don't think Mr. Conyers has come this morning.

    Mr. Hutchinson, would you like to make an opening statement?

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for holding this hearing. It is a very important issue that confronts our country. Being from Arkansas, sometimes it is thought that what happens in the drug cartels does not affect us in mid-America, but my experience has been that cocaine flows directly from Colombia to New York City and into Arkansas. And so I just want to make the point that I think this is very relevant, not just to big cities, but to all of America, and I look forward to this testimony. I hope it will shed some light on this great danger that America faces.

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    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Hutchinson.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Gekas.

    Mr. GEKAS. I thank the Chair.

    The appearance of our witness today and the content of his testimony keeps us on track in the manner of approach that we have developed. We believe, do we not, that there are three elements to this drug problem? One is that we must be stronger at the borders of the United States in interdiction efforts. Hence, the witness who appears today can give us some insight on the delivery system that obtains today.

    But secondly, none of this would be as important as it is, and it is important, if we could reduce the demand for the drugs in our own country. Hence, the second portion of the three-part element that we are engaged.

    The third one, of course, is the education generally of the public that feeds on both of the first two, the interdiction of the drugs and the demand that—the demand levels that are so high within our country.

    Today's testimony will go a long way in reinforcing our intent on preventing delivery to our country in the first place.

    I thank the Chair.

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    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Gekas.

    Our only witness this morning is Mr. Rodriguez. I have already spoken briefly about his background, and for obvious reasons I will not be elaborating much more. As I stated, his involvement with the Medellin drug cartel in the 1990's has provided him with important insights into the workings of the cartel and its operations in the United States.

    I do wish to state for the record that Mr. Rodriguez did not seek out the Crime Subcommittee. He cooperated with law enforcement after his arrest and conviction long before the Crime Subcommittee had heard of him. Once we did learn of Mr. Rodriguez's status, we sought him out, at which time he cooperated fully with the Subcommittee's investigation. For that reason, he is here today.

    I might remind everybody that he is here with some concerns—as we all are—with security. That's why he is appearing in this state with a hood on. He will wear that rather uncomfortable garment throughout this hearing. We greatly appreciate his tolerating that and being willing to appear under those circumstances.

    He also will testify today in his native tongue, Spanish. Ms. Clancy, who is with him today, is our interpreter. She is an expert interpreter and will be providing virtually simultaneous translated testimony to the subcommittee and the public.

    For this purpose, I need to swear both the witness and the interpreter. At this time, I would like to ask Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Clancy to both stand and be sworn in, if they would, please. If you would raise your right hand.
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    [Witness and interpreter sworn.]

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much. You may be seated.

    Let the record reflect that both individuals have been sworn. At this point in time, we would like to hear your testimony, Mr. Rodriguez. You may present it to us. Your full statement, will be admitted into the record without objection.

    Mr. Rodriguez, you may proceed.

    Ms. Clancy, as you begin this interpretation, you will need to have the microphone fairly close to you. There is a little switch to turn on. It will light up when it is on.


    Mr. MCCOLLUM. So everyone in the audience understands, Mr. Rodriguez will be speaking. He will be telling this to Ms. Clancy. She will have the only microphone on, in order to avoid the problems that we would have in feedback and so forth. So I will let Mr. Rodriguez proceed with his testimony and Ms. Clancy with her interpretation.

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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. To begin with, I would like to thank the honorable Congressmen and Mr. Daniel Bryant and Scott Flood for the chance I am offered to cooperate in the war against drugs with my not so honorable knowledge.

    Before I begin my testimony, I would like to state that all this happened within the activities of the organization, in Colombia, as well as in New York. And you can follow these quite easily in the chart that will be shown.

    Some of the comments that will come during my testimony are only comments. I have been in jail for more than 3 years now, and I will now begin my testimony.

    The Medellin cartel is similar to a federation. It is organized by autonomous groups. They unify their efforts and resources for common targets. The federation has approximately 20 groups, well organized, and other minor groups. The main purpose of this federation is to ship drugs, which will be referred to as ''merchandise.'' Each member of the group contributes merchandise in order to lessen the risks and the costs. This getting together is generally referred to as a pool.

    Generally, the group that makes up this pool is the group that has the connection with the contractor for the transportation, the transporter. When we say a contractor, we are referring really to an intermediary.

    Okay. I will now describe Alberto's group, to which I belonged in the city of New York.
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    On the chart, you can identify five very well-defined areas of activity. The first I referred to as consultants; secondly, national operations; third, security; fourth, international operations; and fifth, the New York City branch.

    We can begin now with the head of the cartel. Alberto is in this position. He is 35 years old and handles a capital of more or less $20 million to $30 million. He is quite intelligent, and he makes decisions very quickly. Alberto is involved in all the decisions that are made, and his main roles are the following: He hires a consultant. He authorizes all national operations. He authorizes security operations. He authorizes international operations. He authorizes international contracts. He deals with the New York City branch. He deals with the members of the cartel that make up the pool, and he buys the merchandise directly.

    Let us now go to the hiring of the consultants. The consultants are legally established enterprises, and they are used by Alberto in order to avoid all kinds of legal action and to act as the intermediaries in corruption of members, of the authorities, agencies, et cetera, within the country.

    Now we will refer to the national operations. The main role of this individual is to coordinate all operations within Colombia as far as the handling of monies and merchandise. Further, this person is also in charge of suggesting possibilities of transactions within the country. Basically, his role is to pay for the merchandise to the suppliers, to receive monies and deliveries of monies and merchandise, and to coordinate the transportation of the merchandise to the points of shipment.
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    Now, as to the security operations, in this type of business, there are two types of risk. To begin with, avoid all kinds of operations on the part of the authorities and, secondly, the robbery of the monies by organized gangs. In order to avoid these risks, security doesn't only rely on direct personnel, it is connected with the authorities themselves within the country, for example, the police, members of the army intelligence and secret police, and they are constantly paying off the officers at the highest levels. The purpose is not only protection, but, rather, also obtaining information as to the operation of the authorities themselves.

    The police authority, as well as the military, are also hired as the collectors, for which purpose they carry out kidnappings. They intimidate, and they kill entire families.

    Now we go to the international operations. The main role of this individual, whom we will refer to as Hernando, is to act as liaison of operations, if you will, between Medellin and New York. In order to ease his task, Hernando brings forward the proposals of the contractors for transportation in order to launder money, to collect monies and other international contracts. Some of these international contracts that were mentioned to me was obtaining visas from the American Embassy, by paying for them.

    Now we will speak specifically of the New York City branch. This branch is really the lifeline of the group, and the entire organization depends on the resources that this branch brings forth. In Alberto's organization, there are approximately three or four sub-branches, as it were, in the entry ports into the United States; for example, Miami, L.A., Houston, New York. They also have representatives in other cities. New York is really the most important of them, because of the size of the—because of the volume and the prices that exist there.
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    The head of the New York City branch is Carlos. He has approximately—he is approximately 39 years old. He belonged to the Colombian intelligence group, and for the first few years he worked as a member of the security force for the Medellin cartel.

    The cartel promoted him by sending him to New York for him to work in the warehouses, conduct the distribution, and because of his ability he was appointed as the head of the New York City office. After he had been working for approximately 16 years, he opened up his own branch together with Alberto's organization so that they could work together.

    Carlos has sufficiently—sufficient collateral to back up all the decisions he makes. The collateral is both money, cash money, and property. And in any—for any loss, he backs with this capital.

    We could point out the following roles that Carlos fills in this chart: To begin with, his relationship with Alberto; his relationship with Hernando; his relationship with international contractors; his relationship with the deputy, his assistant as it were; negotiation with clients; supervision of shipment and warehousing and contracts in New York.

    The relationship with Alberto is not a dependent-type of relationship. It is a business relationship, where prices are negotiated, quantities are negotiated, and fees to the pool are negotiated.

    As an example, I could indicate that merchandise that has come in the pool and which belonged to Alberto was being delivered to Carlos in Houston for a value of approximately $12 million. Thereafter, Carlos would transport the merchandise to New York at his own personal risk, with the incentive of being able to sell it for $18,000 a kilo.
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    The responsibility for the value of the merchandise ceased to be Carlos' only when the money was delivered to the people who were in charge of laundering the money.

    Now, as to the relationship with Hernando, the relationship with Hernando is to coordinate international transportation and laundering of the money. Hernando would generally ask for beeper numbers, code numbers that Carlos would be using with the international transporter, and Hernando would send the information, meaning these numbers, and beeper numbers, that should be used for the laundering of the money.

    Once the merchandise arrives at the port of entry in the United States, the person in charge of international transportation would ring the beeper number that Hernando had supplied, which went to one of the officers of the branch. Likewise, when Carlos was ready to send the money to the money launderers, the communication would go through the beeper numbers and the numbers that Carlos had supplied.

    As to their relationship to me, basically I acted as the spokesperson for Carlos, because he did not want to show his face in the city or in the scene so that nobody could subsequently point to him as the head. Carlos would generally delegate certain roles to me, like, for example, meetings with the transporters and responding to certain telephone calls. There were times when I also answered calls from Alberto. I also sometimes met with Alberto in New Jersey, and once in a while I had to make certain calls for him. Two or three times a day, Alberto would get in touch with the branch.

    Okay. As to the negotiation with the customers, through narcotics trafficking, Carlos met excellent drug distributors and adopted them as his customers. Practically all of them were Dominicans who were living uptown Manhattan in New York City. Communications with them were generally conducted through beepers, codes, cellular telephones and telephone arcades.
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    Okay. Now, the normal type of operation in the sale of drugs, this includes credit and absolute guarantee as to the quality of the merchandise. There are times when Carlos would also do business with the heads of parallel organizations in New York. These negotiations did not require the approval of Alberto.

    Let us now go to supervision of shipments and warehousing. When the merchandise is sent to a customer, from the customer we would have then to receive confirmation that the merchandise had, in fact, been received. In order to be able to do this, the customer would dial into our beeper the code and signal that indicated delivery confirmed. When the branch in New York City received merchandise belonging to the pool, we would then send the merchandise to the members of the pool in New York City. There were times when the merchandise was marked with a special stamp that would identify who the owner was. This was then put aside, depending on what instructions had been given by Hernando previously.

    Personally, Carlos would approve what apartments, what houses were going to be used as warehouses. These warehouses were being used to store money and to store merchandise.

    Okay. Now, contracts in New York. The local contracts, the office in New York needs to be able to transport merchandise from the ports of entry in the—within the United States to New York City. The contractors for transportation offer the following advantages and services: Non-Hispanic drivers, because the police only stops Hispanic drivers to ask for identification; secondly, traps, secret traps, in the roofs of the vehicles, because it is harder then for the dogs to detect the drugs. It also offered license plates from different States, which should not be New York or from the ports of entry, because these are the ones that call the attention of the State troopers.
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    Now, the cost of transportation varied between $1,000 and $1,500 per kilo. That was approximately 3 years ago.

    Now we can talk about equipment and supplies. Generally, the real names of the individuals are not used, and, therefore, there are contractors in New York who get legal licenses under false names. Cars are registered in the name of unknown people, and apartments are rented under fake names, and also the utilities.

    Now we will speak about communication. In order for the narcotics trafficker—trafficking to proceed, beepers are essential. And in New York, for $120 you can get a beeper to use for 3 months, without having to show any identification and without the need for any invoicing.

    The cellular telephones, which are clones, facilitate the communication, and it is the Peruvians who are in charge of this type of business in New York. They sell one telephone for $300, and they throw in 1 month's service. If you already have a cellular and you only need the service, that's worth $80 per month. This installation also includes a guarantee of service for a month in case of any misfunction or having the phone disconnected.

    We also used a little bit of technology in order to be able to detect microphones, police radar and communication tapping and also tracking devices. This equipment is generally purchased at the spy shops in New York City.

    Now we go to international contracts. Okay. Let us now refer to the laundering of the money. The contractors use many different systems in order to launder the money. They send money concealed in certain objects. They send—they send goods that have been purchased with the drug proceeds; passengers who conceal the money in their luggage; electronic money transfers, which at present have $750 value; payment of goods and services which do not exist in countries like Panama.
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    Now we will talk about international transportation. International transportation which Alberto told me he used was carried out through the Caribbean and Mexico. He claimed that he wasn't willing to take the risk of transporting directly from Colombia. Alberto further told me that he preferred to transport through Puerto Rico because it was faster, safer and cheaper. At that time, the cost, according to what he himself told me, was 30 percent per 100 kilos, which means that for each 100 kilos the transporter would charge 30 kilos.

    He also told me that the route through Mexico was filled with difficulties because they were charging one-for-one. In other words, out of 100 kilos that were delivered to them in Colombia, 50 kilos were delivered to the person who shipped them at the point of entry.

    Okay. Now, we will speak about international collections. In New York, there are groups that are organized to do the collecting, and they are used by the groups in Colombia because these collectors have representatives in Medellin, in Cali and other cities, and they offer their services to the various narcotics traffickers.

    Now, these collectors generally do come from Colombia, and they have been police officers, or they have been murderers. The system they use, these collectors I mean, is the same as is used in Colombia: Kidnappings, intimidations, killings. Now, their fees for these collections is approximately 30 or 40 percent of the money that was recovered. We also know, from good reliable sources, that these collectors are also involved in robberies of the warehouses where the merchandise and the monies are stored.

    Okay. That's it.
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    Mr. MCCOLLUM. We thank you very much, Mr. Rodriguez, for your testimony.

    [The prepared statement of Mr. Rodriguez follows:]


 The Medellin cartel is a type of federation. It consists of approximately 20 well-organized autonomous groups which obtain an economy of scale by joining their efforts and resources to pursue common targets and accomplish common goals.

 The main commercial objective is the delivery of drugs, or ''merchandise,'' as such deliveries are called by the cartels. Each group contributes drugs in order to avoid risks and to reduce costs. This kind of group is referred to as a ''pool.'' One of the members of the group is the leader of the pool, and it is this leader who has the connections with the international transportation contractors.

 I am going to describe the ''Alberto'' cartel. I joined this cartel in 1994 in New York City as a deputy. You can identify in the diagram five distinct working areas:

1. Consultants
2. National operations
3. Security
4. International Operations
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5. New York City branch

    I would like to start by describing the Cartel head, ''Alberto.'' He is 35-years old. He is extremely wealthy, with a net worth between $10 million and $30 million. He is intelligent and a quick and capable decision-maker. In the past he worked for Pablo Escobar and the Ochoa brothers. He is involved in all decision-making by members of the organization. His main functions are:

 Hiring consultants
 Authorizing national operations
 Authorizing security operations
 Authorizing international contracts
 Dealing with the international operations
 Dealing with members of the ''pool''
 Dealing with the New York City branch
 Dealing with the purchasing of merchandise


    The consultants are legal entities which Alberto utilizes to avoid legal actions and to act as a bridge in order to corrupt ''legitimate'' institutions or persons.

National Operations

    The person in this position, ''Pedro,'' has to coordinate the operations in Colombia, particularly regarding merchandise and money. Also, he introduces Alberto to possible additional legal and illegal business in the country. His functions are:
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 Making merchandise payments to suppliers
 Picking up and storing merchandise and money
 Making merchandise deliveries to shipment points

Security Operations

    The security in the organization performs two basic roles. One is to avoid police operations, and the other is to prevent robberies of cartel money by bandits.

    The security operation has its own personnel, and they work very closely with the local authorities, police, army, and secret service. They make regular and ongoing payments to the local authorities, especially the personnel in high-level positions. The objective is to obtain protection and information about any actions which might be taken against the organization.

    It is the local authorities, police, army, and secret service that are in charge of collecting money for the organization. They kidnap persons and kill entire families in order to collect the debt. One such example involved my brother who, in 1994, was kidnaped by members of the Colombian secret police at the direction of Cali Cartel members. He was ''collateral'' intended to force me to repay money that a business partner of mine had lost.

International Operations

    The main function of the person in-charge of this position, ''Hernando,'' is to facilitate the operational link between the Medellin organization and the New York City branch. In order to achieve this goal, Hernando introduces all of the proposals made by the contractors for Alberto's approval.
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    Hernando's main functions are:

 Arranging contracts for money laundering
 Arranging contracts for transportation
 Providing for international collections
 Coordinating the activities of international contractors

    One example of the services provided by the international contractors involves their obtaining ''legal'' visas for drug cartel members, by bribing functionaries in the American embassy in Bogota, Colombia.

New York City Branch

    This branch is the fountain of life of the Alberto cartel because the entire organization is absolutely dependent upon the resources which are obtained by the New York City branch.

    Alberto's organization has six of seven branches in the United States. Four of these branches—Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York—are major ports of entry. The organization also has three representatives in the cities of Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia. The New York branch is the main branch due to the handling of such large quantities of merchandise and the high prices.

    The head of the New York branch is Carlos. He is 39-years old. He joined the Colombian army intelligence as a young man. He worked in his earliest years as a security person for the Medellin cartel. The cartel members upgraded his position, referring him to their New York operations as ''warehouse'' staff. He demonstrated his capabilities as a delivery person in New York and was upgraded to deputy of the New York office. After 16 years of working in drug trafficking, he opened his own branch working with Alberto's organization.
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    He has to maintain substantial collateral to back up his transactions, so that he has enough money and properties to pay in case of loss of merchandise.

    We can identify the following functions of Carlos in the graphic:

  1. Coordinate and negotiate with Alberto (cartel head)
  2. Coordinate with Hernando (international operations)
  3. Coordinate with international contractors
  4. Oversee Deputy Chief
  5. Deal with clients
  6. Supervise deliveries and warehouse operations
  7. Negotiate contracts

Relation with Alberto (Cartel head)

    The relationship between Carlos and Alberto is a commercial relationship. Their interaction involves prices, quantities, and charges for handling the ''pool.''

    As an example of one typical deal, in 1995, Alberto agreed to accept responsibility for the drug shipment up to the port in Houston, and assigned a price of $12,000 per kilo to Carlos. When Carlos agreed, Carlos then transported the shipment at his own risk to New York. However, he then could sell the merchandise for $18,000 per kilo. Carlos' responsibility terminated only when he had delivered the proceeds from the sale of the merchandise to the individuals who were to then laundering the proceeds.
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Relationship with Hernando (International operations)

    The basic relationship between Hernando and Carlos involves coordination of international transportation and money laundering.

    Hernando usually asks for the beeper and codes that Carlos is going to use with the international transportation. He then sends the information about the beeper number and codes to the money laundering people.

    When a drug shipment arrives at a port of entry, the international transportation person calls the beeper number of the branch that Hernando provides to them—the same system the branch uses with the money laundering people. When Carlos is ready to deliver the money, he calls the beeper number that Hernando provided previously.

My Relationship as Deputy with Carlos

    As Deputy, I was the liaison between Carlos and others. Carlos sought to be invisible, like a ''phantom.'' He wants to be in the business, but he doesn't want somebody to be able to point to him as a ''patron,'' or boss.

    Carlos delegated all meetings and telephone conversations to me with previous instructions and recommendations. The only calls that he usually made were the calls with Alberto. I said ''usually'' because I would call Alberto sometimes. The frequency of Alberto's calls to the branch during the week was 3 or 4 a day. I met with Alberto in New Jersey (He didn't like to come into New York) approximately 10 times, and traveled to Colombia to meet with him approximately three times. Alberto was a legal resident of the United States.
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Dealing with Clients

    Carlos, through his trafficking experience in New York, met some very good successful distributors and took them as clients. Almost all of them are Dominicans located in Upper Manhattan in New York City.

    The communications with them were made using beeper numbers, codes, cellular phones, and ''cabinas telefonicas'' (telephone centers).

    The regular requirement for a drug transactions in New York includes credit and being able to guarantee the merchandise.

    Very often, Carlos made deals with branch chiefs of other organizations in New York City and other cities. Those deals didn't need the approval of Alberto.

Supervising deliveries and warehouses

    When the merchandise is going out of the warehouse to a client, Carlos or I would have to receive confirmation from the client that the merchandise arrived correctly. To do this, the client would confirm that the kilos were received, phoning the confirmation to our beeper screens, including the number of kilos and his reference code.

    If the New York branch receives ''pool'' merchandise, we deliver the merchandise to the members of the pool in New York. Sometimes the merchandise comes with a mark in order to identify the owner of each kilo. All the instructions were sent by Hernando previously and Carlos or I would make the arrangements with the ''pool'' member in New York.
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    Carlos approves the ''warehouse'' site, which would usually be an apartment located in a familiar building. We used those warehouses to store merchandise and money coming from the clients.

Making contracts (contractors)

     Local transportation:

    The New York branch needs to transport the merchandise from the U.S. port of entry to New York. Using transportation contractors provided certain advantages:

 No Hispanic drivers because the police are more likely to stop the Hispanic drivers without justification.

 Secret compartments in the roof because it is more difficult for dogs to detect the drugs.

 License plates of States other than New York or the port of entry State because those are ''hot'' license plates in the view of State troopers.

    The cost of merchandise transportation with the above advantages is between $1,000 and $1,500 per kilo.

Equipment and Supplies

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    The real names of persons involved in the drug business are not used. Therefore, you can find in New York contractors capable of obtaining legal licenses with other names, cars registered with names and addresses that nobody knows. They can also rent apartments without your name and with all utilities included.


    The drug dealers have to use beepers to do business. You can buy them for them for $120. This price includes three months of service. In New York, the salespeople don't ask for identification, nor do they issue invoices.

    The (clone) cellular phones are popular in the drug community and are generally bought from the Peruvians, who dominate the clone phone business, for $300, which includes a month of service. If you already have your cellular and all you need is the number, the cost is $80 for one month. The installation of the number is given to you with a guarantee of one month. If the number is disconnected by the service the previous number is replaced for free.

    We used various technologies to detect microphones, police radars, wire communications, and bugs. We bought this equipment in the ''spy shops'' in New York without invoices.

International Contracts

The contractors use numerous mechanisms to launder money. Some of those are:

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 Sending money hidden in durable goods
 Sending durable goods purchased with drug money
 Passengers traveling with money hidden in bags
 Wire transfers to Colombia (now limited to $750)
 Wire transfers to other countries
 Payments of fictional goods and services to countries as Panama.

International Transportation

    The international transportation that Alberto used had two ways from Colombia to the U.S.: By boat, through the Caribbean (Puerto Rico), and by plane or boat through Mexico, or its territorial waters. Alberto never took the chance of making a big shipment directly to the U.S.

    Alberto told me that he prefers Puerto Rico because it was faster, cheaper, and safer. The cost for shipping through Puerto Rico at that time was 30 percent, which means the contractor took 30 kilos per 100 kilos given in Colombia for transportation as his transportation fee.

    The Mexican route had some difficulties. The first one was the cost. The Mexicans charge ''one-by-one.'' That means that if Alberto sent 100 kilos from Colombia, the Mexicans would take 50 kilos as their fee. Secondly, the sacks of kilos almost always arrive in the United States having been skimmed.

International Collections
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    There are in New York some groups of collectors that the Federation uses because they have a representative in Medellin.

    The collectors originally came to the U.S. from Colombia and almost all of them were policemen or assassins there. The methods that they use are the same as those used in Colombia: kidnaping, intimidation, and murdering. Their fee is 30 to 40 percent of the money recovered.

    We knew that these groups would hold up the warehouse of the branches, killing everybody there.


    Mr. MCCOLLUM. We are going to proceed now to examine and ask questions, which we hope that you can answer for us based on what you have told us so far.

    There are several members of the committee here today. Normally we do 5 minutes of questioning each, but because we have an interpreter and because there are only a few of us here, I have asked my Ranking Member, Mr. Conyers, his permission, and he has agreed by unanimous consent for 10-minute rounds. That's what we will do. I hear no objection. In that case, I will recognize myself for 10 minutes.

    Mr. Rodriguez, I wondered if you could tell us where does Hernando—international operation person—live, or where did he live? Was it in the United States? Was it in a particular city? I don't need to know his street address.
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. In Medellin.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. He lived in Medellin.

    Did he ever travel to the United States?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Hernando did not.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. All right. What about Pedro now? Pedro had the national operation of the United States. He is the one in charge, you told us, of the payments, the deliveries and so on. Where did he live?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. In Medellin as well.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Did he travel to the United States?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. To my knowledge, at least once, but I myself did not meet with him in person.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. If the organization was organized nationally in the United States, was there a particular person present in the United States, who was in charge of that national operation? Or was it simply left to each of the city heads—such as Carlos in the New York City branch—to make direct contact with Hernando and Pedro?

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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Generally, Carlos would be the person responsible, or the——

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. So Carlos would——

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Or, excuse me, for the organization in New York City.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. There was no one else with whom he dealt in the United States itself? He dealt directly with those who were living in Medellin?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. He did have certain dealings with other organizations and with some other members of Alberto's organization.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Who lived here in the United States?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Mostly over the telephone. Excuse me.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mostly over the telephone?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Uh-huh.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. In terms of transportation, I gather there were quite a number of people who came back and forth even if it wasn't Pedro or Hernando. How did they arrange to obtain visas? Do you know?
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Are we talking about transportation—transportation is mostly by plane and boat.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Right. But I was thinking in terms of people who came to the United States—drug cartel members who may have gone back and forth. If they were from Colombia, how did they obtain their visas? Can you tell us? Do you have any indirect knowledge?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Okay. From what I was told, what they have is intermediaries in Colombia who have a connection or connections with the Embassy of the United States, and they charge for those connections. They receive all the documentation that the Embassy requires, and they file it with the Embassy, and the person who needs the visa only needs to go pick up his visa directly in the Embassy.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. So it was your understanding that the persons who want to come here from the cartel were obtaining fraudulent visas from the U.S. Embassy because somebody at the Embassy was being paid or bribed to do this? Is that what you had heard?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. That is what I have heard.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. That is hearsay, of course. Was it from somebody such as Pedro or Hernando? Who is your source of that information?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Basically, it was Carlos.
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    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Did Carlos give you any idea of what it cost to get the illegal visa?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. In the case of the cartels, because there are various visas, the price 3 years ago was $5,000.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Do you have any reason to know if it occurs in other countries? In other words, are there other countries besides Colombia where somebody could buy a fraudulent visa from a U.S. Embassy?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I really have not heard anything like that.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Is this a pretty common thing from what you heard from Carlos?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. This, they say, happens in special cases.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. All right.

    You referred to the Medellin group as a federation. What is the interrelationship of the drug groups or cartels that make up the federation? Are there relationships between the Medellin cartel and the Cali cartel? Can you just describe how a group becomes associated with the federation and what it is like?

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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. At that time, from the comments I heard from Carlos and Alberto, as a group, they could enter into transactions with Cali or with any other entity, depending on the capability that they might have for transporting merchandise, which is the main purpose in these alliances, these pools.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Could you describe for us how you understand the drug cartels over the years have managed to corrupt Colombian institutions such as the government institutions, political institutions, and financial institutions?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. This is only a personal opinion, Congressman. From what I have seen, it would be carried out this way: Generally, the drug cartels or the people within the drug cartels have started legitimate businesses; and to be able to start a legitimate operation with drug money, they have found it necessary to pay off many people within the institutions, the agents. And these payoffs are made very often, very commonly, and therefore the officers in these various institutions have become accustomed to this type of transaction.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Please tell us about the relationship between the drug cartels and the Colombian military intelligence.

    I am particularly interested in that relationship because I recall you told us that Carlos, the New York City branch head, was a former Colombian intelligence person. I assume you mean Army intelligence. I am curious to know what the relationship is generally between drug cartels and military intelligence in Colombia and how it is that former military intelligence officers come to work for the cartels.

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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Okay. Obviously, the drug cartels are very interested in individuals who have specialized in the handling of weapons, in security operations, in spy operations, and obviously also in the obtaining of information. So these intelligence officers are ideal for this type of group.

    And because of the payments they receive, which is very low, meaning their salaries as military personnel are very low, and certainly the offers made to them by the cartels are way above what they could make, normally, these people set out as security personnel for the cartels, and then, as time goes on, they progress, depending on their capabilities.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. I thank you very much for your description.

    I have taken up my 10 minutes, so I will yield to Mr. Hutchinson for any questions he may have.

    Mr. Hutchinson, you are recognized for 10 minutes.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I want to look more closely at the New York City branch of the operations that you have described. You talked about the corruption in Colombia. Could you elaborate on the importance of corrupting the law enforcement officials in New York City and how that is accomplished, if it is?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I really do not know anything about direct corruption of the authorities in New York City. What I do know, what I have seen, and what I have heard is that there are agencies, like motor vehicle, where people are receiving monies for drivers' licenses and that type of thing. But I have not heard about corruption in other institutions in New York City.
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    Mr. HUTCHINSON. You were the deputy for Carlos, who is chief of the New York City branch. Does that mean that Carlos did not engage in corruption efforts of the New York City Police Department?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. No, he did not; he did not try to.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. And am I correct that Carlos was in charge of the New York City branch?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Yes.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. And so if it was happening, it would be happening either from someone outside of, maybe more closely connected with the Colombian headquarters?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I do not believe that they are engaging in that type of corruption here in the United States.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Okay. Do you have information that maybe is not personal to you that corruption is taking place?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. People talk, and they say a lot of things, more particularly if they are trying to get what we call contracts. But I have really not been able to confirm this at any time.
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    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Let me move on. I do not want you to say anything that would give information as to your identity, and so if you want to be careful, that is understandable. But you obviously have an education. Were you motivated into the drug cartel because of money?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I got involved in the cartel for money, yes, because of money problems.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. In reference to yourself, but also the other people who are working in the organization of the cartel, are they drug users themselves?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Generally, they do not use drugs.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. So it is a business approach?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. That is correct.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Did you ever give any thought to the young people who are being harmed by the cocaine that is filling the streets of New York City and our other areas?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Very frequently, yes.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. During the time that you were engaged in those operations?
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Of course I did.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. But you went ahead anyway because of the financial incentive?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. There were several reasons. One of the main reasons was paying for the kidnapping of my brother, and I had to fulfill certain of these tasks in order to be able to obtain the money for his release.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. And that was carried out by the security people in Colombia?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Yes, these were police officials.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. You expressed your concern about law enforcement and you have to be careful that they do not interfere with the shipment, and then you also mentioned that you are concerned about other drug dealers intercepting a shipment, what is your greatest concern—law enforcement intercepting a shipment or other drug dealers?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. The authorities—there is a certain risk with the authorities, more particularly with the centralized authorities, meaning the authorities centered in Bogota. As to the local authorities, they are under control.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. They are what?
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. They are under control.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. And what do you mean by that?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Paid off. And in the case of robbers, bank robbers or robbers, they are the ones that really constitute a risk.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Those who would steal the shipment?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Uh-huh, for the money.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. You said the local authorities are paid off. What local authorities are you referring to?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Generally, the chief of police.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Are you speaking of Colombians?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Yes, of course.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. And New York City, let's look in that area. Where is your greatest concern there?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. The greatest concern in the city are the robberies, also.
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    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Okay. Now, you mentioned that your boss was worth 10 to 20 million dollars. Obviously, there is a lot of resources in the international war against drugs. How would you compare the resources, the tools, the weaponry of the cartel versus that of law enforcement?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I believe there is a certain disadvantage on the side of the war against drugs because these groups are really many and unknown. Further, this organization that was charted here was set up for information because they really never figured that they would organize it in this way. This comes about after analyzing what their activities have been, and what they always try to do is to conduct their activities separately. And with the money that just not just Alberto or Carlos could have available, they get a lot—they find a lot of ways to avoid the authorities and the law.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. My time has expired. I hope, Mr. Chairman, I will be able to ask additional questions at a later point.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. We will be glad to do that.

    I was going to recognize Mr. Conyers, but he apparently is not here at the moment.

    Mr. Gekas, you are recognized for 10 minutes.

    Mr. GEKAS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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    Bien venidos, Senor Rodriguez.

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Thank you.

    Mr. GEKAS. Yo prefiero preguntar cuestiones in Espanol, pero solo yo entiendo.

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I think I will, too.

    Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Chairman, my apologies. I said that I would prefer to ask questions in Spanish, but nobody will understand me. And I have forgotten it, anyway.

    After you were arrested, did someone take your place as deputy to Carlos?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I really do not know what might have happened after I was arrested.

    Mr. GEKAS. What is your best estimate?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I figure that Carlos will maintain the control through somebody else.

    Mr. GEKAS. So that the organization of which you were part is still functioning?
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Possibly.

    Mr. GEKAS. You do not know for sure?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. No, I do not know for sure.

    Mr. GEKAS. In your cooperation with the law enforcement officers, were you not able to describe the existing organization?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Yes, of course I did. But, as I mentioned before, they tried to act in an underplayed way, or as ghosts, as it were.

    Mr. GEKAS. But it is reasonable to assume that the activities are still being pursued?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Surely, they are.

    Mr. GEKAS. Isn't it true that the renowned chief of operations for many years out of Colombia was Pablo Escobar? Isn't that correct?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Excuse me?

    Mr. GEKAS. In the historical sense, one of the notorious leaders of the Colombian cartels, perhaps the leader at one time, was Pablo Escobar. Isn't that correct?
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. That is true, yes.

    Mr. GEKAS. And he perished; did he not?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. That is correct.

    Mr. GEKAS. Someone or some group of people then took over his place; is that correct?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I believe that that sort of spread out.

    Mr. GEKAS. So that leadership——

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Is lost.

    Mr. GEKAS. Say that again, please.

    The INTERPRETER. Is lost. The leadership is lost.

    Mr. GEKAS. Is lost.

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. It is lost.

    Mr. GEKAS. But you state in your statement that there is a federation.
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I agree.

    Mr. GEKAS. So you have four or five chiefs rather than just one, as Pablo Escobar was; is that correct?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I agree.

    Mr. GEKAS. Is it reasonable for us to assume that if one of those leaders of one of the groups in the federation perished or was removed from the scene, that somebody would take his place?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. In those small groups, it is possible, of course.

    Mr. GEKAS. The point that I am trying to drive home here is that the driving force for the continuation of these cartels is the profit that is made in the United States. Isn't that correct?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Yes, of course.

    Mr. GEKAS. So that you do not see any reduction of activity so long as profit can be made; is that correct?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I agree.
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    Mr. GEKAS. So would he, as a reasonable man, deduce from all of this that the demand for the drugs that exists in the United States has to be reduced before these activities can be reduced?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Of course. That way, there would be no incentive to bring in merchandise.

    Mr. GEKAS. I have no further questions.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Gekas.

    I am going to yield myself another round of questions. If anyone else wishes to ask more questions, we will come back to them as well because we only have a limited number of members present today being that this is a week in which we have a period of recess for Congress.

    Do you believe, Mr. Rodriguez, that the Caribbean has become an increasingly popular route for the transportation of drugs from Colombia to the United States as compared to Mexico?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. According to conversations I had with Alberto and Carlos, they have stated that the most popular route is the Caribbean at this time, meaning ''at this time'' 3 years ago.

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    Mr. MCCOLLUM. I understand you have been in prison for 3 years, so I understand that your information is from 3 years ago.

    What is your perception of Puerto Rico's significance in this drug trafficking corridor, or what was it 3 years ago?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. It was quite important.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. What is your perception about the effectiveness of U.S. drug interdiction efforts in the Caribbean?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. According to the last I heard, the radar that has been set up and the activities conducted by the enforcement agencies of the United States, the transit through Puerto Rico has somewhat diminished, but it persists.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. You have indicated that you have been out of the circuit, so to speak, for about 3 years, but I understand you have had some information coming to you more recently than 3 years ago. Is that correct? In other words, some of the things that you have heard and been able to pick up have been more current than 3 years ago; right?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. That is correct.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. What about the perception you have of the drug interdiction efforts of the United States with regard to Mexico? Do you have any knowledge or perception of that?
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. My perception and my information is that the traffic has been reduced.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Is there corruption in Mexico caused by the drug trade?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. From what I have heard, quite a bit.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. You have indicated that citizens of the Dominican Republic have been involved in New York City with respect to the trafficking you did there. Maybe they are not citizens of the Dominican Republic. Maybe they are now Americans from the Dominican Republic. But, at any rate, there are Dominicans involved.

    Can you describe their involvement a little bit for me? Is it common to use mainly Dominicans for drug trafficking in New York?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Generally, Dominicans do the distribution. According to the comments Carlos made to me, what happened with the Dominicans is that they grew within the business at the same time as the Colombians, Dominicans as distributors and Colombians as wholesalers, and therefore there is a close relationship between both groups.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Could you elaborate on the average quantity of cocaine being moved into New York City on a weekly and a monthly basis by your branch?

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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I really would not know that.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. You did not know what it was 3 years ago when you were working there?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. All of New York, you mean?

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. No; your cartel. What did you move? What did Carlos move? How much quantity on a weekly or monthly basis did just your group move?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Okay. I believe that approximately 50, 100 kilos.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. A week?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. That would be an average for a month possibly.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. For a month. That means that, for a year, you might have moved 1,000, 1,200 kilos or more?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Possibly, yes, of course.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Do you have any way of estimating the total amount moved by Colombian cartels in the New York City area in a month or in a year?

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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. That would really be very difficult.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. With regard to your group—Carlos's operation—again, how did the Dominicans get paid who were distributing the drugs? How did they make their money?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. The Colombian groups supplied them at a wholesaler's price. And they cut the drugs, and out of 1 kilo they would make possibly 2 or 3 kilos. They then—this is my understanding; I really do not have direct knowledge of this. But after that, they split it for the street dealers, or they put it in what they call spots, and it is in the spots that they distribute the drugs at a lower volume.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. It is my understanding that—and I just want to know if this is correct—that these drugs would come into the United States through the various means that Carlos would arrange and that you have described in your testimony and they would come into New York City. Then, when they were in New York City, they would be sold wholesale to these Dominicans by Carlos and your group.

    Is that what happened to the drugs? Is that correct?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Correct.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. All right. Now, if we are looking at New York City in particular, could you tell us about these so-called spy shops and the trade that you did to avoid detection by law enforcement officers? What kind of equipment was used? What is a spy shop, anyway?
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. This is a store where devices are sold for the detection of radar, telephone communications, hidden microphones. And these stores operate legally.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. So they are all over New York City; there are several of them?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Yes. They are in the telephone book, and they are advertised in newspapers.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. How would you get a phone that was cloned?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. A clone phone can be obtained by inquiring in various places, like, for example, the telephone arcades, who have information about the Peruvians, and they put you in touch with them, with the Peruvians, and a transaction is carried out.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Do you know how the Peruvians came to be as the primary suppliers of cloned phones in New York?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I really don't know.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. I have taken up another 10-minute round, so I am going to yield to Mr. Hutchinson for another round, if he would like.
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    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to ask a few more questions.

    Mr. Rodriguez, you talked about the 50 to 100 kilos of cocaine that came into New York City through your branch each month. What was your distribution network? Was it all in New York City, or did any of it go out into outlying territory?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Carlos operated directly here in New York, and his customers mostly were in New York City. There were certain customers who talked to him and told him that people were coming from cities like Boston, Chicago, and perhaps Philadelphia.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. So buyers could come from other cities into Carlos's network and be a customer?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Yes, to talk to Carlos's customers. And these customers would then be in charge of delivering drugs to those other people.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. And so Carlos's customers were wholesalers themselves and not users?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Exactly.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. How far down the chain would a user be?

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    The INTERPRETER. I'm sorry, Congressman, I did not get your question.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. How far down the chain would the user be from Carlos's operation?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. About four, five levels away.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. And so the ultimate user could be virtually anywhere in the United States?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Sure.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Now, I asked you earlier to talk about the comparative resources of law enforcement and the cartel. From your perspective, what is the greatest tool or weapon that law enforcement has against drug trafficking?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Extradition.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Extradition. In other words, if dealers are caught in Colombia, law enforcement can bring them back to the United States?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. That is correct. That is the real weapon that the United States can wield to end the war against drugs.

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    Mr. HUTCHINSON. You fear the jails in the United States much more than those in Colombia?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. The laws. It is the laws. Jail, as well, of course. But it is the laws that are much more strict, and there is no way of fixing it up, as you can do in Colombia with the authorities that are being paid off.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. This is not a question, this is just a comment here. I think what you are saying is, it is the integrity of our system of law in the United States that is our greatest tool, and we can never let that be attacked or undermined.

    From a drug dealer's perspective, do you see any difference between being prosecuted in State court versus Federal court, Federal sentences versus State sentences?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I have not been in a State jail. But from what I have heard at the jail where I'm lodged, the Federal laws are much stricter.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. I am curious whether when you are dealing drugs, you think about the penalties. Do you think about, well, this is 10 years or this is 20 years or this could be life in prison, or do you just take the risk and go with the flow?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. There is a great lack of knowledge among the people who operate in New York City. And, naturally, the authorities are feared, but, actually, you don't give that too much thought, perhaps out of ignorance.

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    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Of the drug dealers that you are aware of, say, in the New York City branch, what percent of the workers, employees, dealers are Colombians?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. For the most part, I'd say 90 percent as to the wholesaler group.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. And then the Dominicans have their own network there?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Exactly.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Now, I want to end on this question: What advice would you give a young person who is considering doing business with a drug dealer?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. What I would do is tell him—explain to him something like what happened to me, and I'm certain that the person would cease and desist as to any kind of dealings with any kind of drugs.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you very much.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you, Mr. Hutchinson.

    Mr. Conyers, you are recognized for 10 minutes.

    Mr. CONYERS. Congratulations, Chairman McCollum. I think this is another of an important series of hearings on this subject.
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    May I also commend the interpreter. Ms. Clancy has been extraordinarily helpful, hasn't she?

    Thank you, Ms. Clancy, for your very skillful interpretations for us here today.

    The INTERPRETER. My privilege.

    Mr. CONYERS. Now, we are deeply indebted to Mr. Rodriguez, and we are aware of the sensitivity of his appearance here, and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure that he stays alive and well and that we cooperate with him in the same way that he has cooperated with us.

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Thank you very much.

    Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Rodriguez, how helpful do you think our undercover agents are in fighting the drug problem in the United States and outside of the United States?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I believe that what we referred to as CI's, the confidential informants, have really been an example and have had a very, very big effect, because, naturally, the least a person expects is that your associate or the person with whom you are entering into a transaction and who undoubtedly comes from your home country is working for the United States Government or for its agencies. And, therefore, I believe that here as well as abroad, this is something that at this time the organizations really fear quite a bit, I must say.
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    Mr. CONYERS. In the opinion of Mr. Rodriguez, are our law enforcement people getting better or are they about the same as they have always been?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I believe they have learned a great deal and they have become more familiar with the type of business since these organizations are constantly in the state of flux actually trying to camouflage themselves, and the authorities have managed to determine what the mechanisms are that could detect the new camouflage.

    Mr. CONYERS. Is it getting more difficult to spot an undercover agent that is working with the Government against the drug business people?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Yes, it really has, because generally it is people who have been part of the business for a long time and you don't mistrust them.

    Mr. CONYERS. Now, looking at this from our point of view, we make lots of arrests at the street level throughout America. We lock up in the course of a week 2 or 3 thousand people. The next night, 2 or 3 thousand more people are there to take their place. So we have a lot of people going to court, getting trials, getting sentenced, getting put in prison. But at the street level, there is always somebody to take their place, no matter what part of the country, in New York, in California, Texas, Florida; it doesn't matter.

    Could you speak to this problem from your point of view, please?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. There are always many people waiting to be able to take part in this, in these type of businesses, and so what happens is that once certain people are retired from the street, there is a group that is waiting to come in because of the ease, or the relative ease, to get money and often to be able to make a living, not even to become wealthy. And I believe that that is the main reason. I think many people believe that this is a great type of business and that you can make a lot of money in it.
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    Mr. CONYERS. Suppose Mr. McCollum and Mr. Conyers and Mr. Hutchinson were able to persuade the people that lead the fight against drugs in America at the national and international level to start going straight to the top rather than sweeping the streets at the bottom all the time.

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. It would be much more effective. It would be much more effective, because it would stop the flow.

    The only thing that I would consider is that, undoubtedly, the groups would begin changing their MO's. From what I understand, there are already some Dominicans who are receiving directly from Colombia, when previous they had not been considered as wholesalers.

    Mr. CONYERS. Thank you for that information.

    Who is bigger than Medellin?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Cali was bigger than Medellin, but I believe, from what I have read and from comments I have heard, that Cali is also becoming a sort of federation. And there are many groups that are getting organized, because they have the financial power, and the Rodriguezes have lost their power.

    Mr. CONYERS. Could we count on—well, how much could we, frankly, count on the Colombian Government to help us if we went to the top to take out Cali and Medellin?
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. This is also my personal opinion, Congressman. I believe that were an honest President elected and, bearing in mind the law enforcements which at this time I believe to be very honest and effective, in particular—well, talking of the centralized Government, I believe that you could count really on a big force there.

    Mr. CONYERS. We could. But can we?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I really believe that at this time—this is a transitional period, and perhaps President Samper was swamped in filthy water accumulated over many years. But the country, as well as the external forces that press into it, for example, the decertification, will really make the country correct its ways.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. By unanimous consent, Mr. Conyers, you can have another 5 minutes. You were not here for the second round or the first round, so we are going to combine your time here a little bit and just keep going, if you wish.

    Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Chairman McCollum.

    Now, the cartel pays law enforcement people in Colombia?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. From what I have heard, that is correct.

    Mr. CONYERS. Do they do that in New York?

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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. No. Law enforcement is not paid off in New York.

    Mr. CONYERS. Who is?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Small contractors, these little contractors who can get you everyday things, like cars and drivers' licenses and that type of thing.

    Mr. CONYERS. How much drugs do the police take from you or your people from time to time?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. From what I have heard, I would say about 20, 30 percent——

    Mr. CONYERS. It is hard——

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ [continuing]. Of the total.

    Mr. CONYERS. It is hard to tell, isn't it, because what gets seized and what gets turned in you may not ever know?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Yes, I do not know that.

    Mr. CONYERS. We are talking about New York; right?

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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. That is correct.

    Mr. CONYERS. Okay. Well, let's turn this over a little bit and look at it from another angle. Let's go after the launderers of money. If there were no launderers, there could hardly even be a business.

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Undoubtedly so. But there would be some other system.

    Mr. CONYERS. Undoubtedly so.

    Now, the problem that we want—excuse me. Go ahead.

    Ms. CLANCY. No. I was translating your statement.

    Mr. CONYERS. The problem that we run into, of course, when we look at the money, is that many of the people that handle the money don't handle the drugs; is that right?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. That is correct.

    Mr. CONYERS. So we may have perfectly legitimate businesspeople handling the money that have no contact, as far as we know, whatsoever with the drugs?

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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I agree; that is correct.

    Mr. CONYERS. Okay. Now, Mr. McCollum and Mr. Hutchinson and I are now talking with our leaders about money laundering. So where would you recommend we start?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I believe you have already started. For example, the wire transfers has been reduced greatly; I mean, the sum being transferred. Also, banking transactions are being more closely supervised; for example, the purchase of money orders. Also, the shipment of merchandise—I mean legal goods—are being checked more thoroughly at the Customs Services, and it has made it difficult—from what I have heard, it is becoming very difficult to send the money back to Colombia.

    Right now, from what I understand, the money is being sent down in cash, going back undoubtedly to systems that they have used previously, and they have—they have tried to put aside the very sophisticated systems they used.

    Mr. CONYERS. Well, now, even you and I, Mr. Rodriguez, know that there are offshore banks in the islands, there are banks in Europe, that couldn't stay in business a week if they weren't handling drug money. What about them?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Actually, it is a little bit difficult to make a recommendation in that regard right now, because I am really not aware of the new system that they are using in these banks. Previously, this was carried out by paying services and invoices that didn't exist or by paying corporations abroad for activities that had never been rendered.

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    Also, certain appliances were being purchased—for example, oil drilling equipment—which, because of the laws that controlled their movements, they could be bought 10, 30 times over when actually only one transaction had really taken place.

    Mr. CONYERS. Thank you very much for talking with me, Mr. Rodriguez.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Conyers.

    I have a couple of wrap-up questions here and some others may have burning hole questions, but we are going to pretty much conclude this hearing in the next 10 or 15 minutes, Mr. Rodriguez. You have been very patient.

    Could you describe for us, Mr. Rodriguez, the relationship between Alberto—the head of the whole cartel down in Colombia—and the people who are responsible for the cultivation and production of cocaine?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Actually, generally the purchases were made by Alberto. Alberto places an order, an order with the various groups that handle the laboratories. They process then the merchandise that that particular group requires. I have this information from Carlos, again.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Once those products have been purchased—the order has been filled—presumably he then makes the transactions that you described earlier to transport the finished product to the United States. Albert didn't do any—Alberto didn't do any cultivation himself nor did he run a laboratory himself; is that right?
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. No, he does not. To my knowledge, at least.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Okay.

    Now, I understand that Colombia has moved into a global heroin market—much of this has probably occurred subsequent to your arrest. Can you comment on anything that you know or have heard about the price and the purity of Colombian heroin?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I have no experience with heroin, but I have heard and I have read a great deal about heroin in Colombia, and I have also had certain conversations in jail with the people who are involved in that type of business.

    From my understanding, the quality of Colombian heroin is not good. There is an apparent advantage in that 1 kilo is worth approximately—they would even sell it for $100,000 in New York, which is the equivalent of approximately 5 kilos of cocaine. So it would seem a better deal to transport heroin instead of cocaine.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. It would certainly make sense.

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. But my understanding further is that the transportation for this type of product is a very delicate matter. It cannot be transported in the same way as cocaine is transported because heat affects it, rough handling affects it, I believe light affects it. These are general circumstances of it.

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    I also understand that the Dominicans are not involved in this type of business in large quantities, and the general network for distribution of the Colombians are Dominicans. And so it is also known that most of the distributors are the Afro-Americans and Puerto Ricans, and they are not within the scope, let's say, of the Colombians.

    This is speaking generally of what I have heard and read and summarized for you.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. I appreciate your doing that. Even now, you certainly have access to information and sources that we don't have. So your information is helpful to the committee even though you did not deal in heroin yourself.

    A few minutes ago, you responded to Mr. Conyers' questions asking you about the police taking a cut or a percentage or some portion of the drugs—the cocaine—coming to the United States, with a 20 to 30 percent figure. I would like you to clarify that. I am confused.

    Is this 20 to 30 percent that our law enforcement interdicts or takes away because they are capturing the drugs or stopping the shipments? Or is this 20 or 30 percent bribery or payoff money in Colombia? Or is it bribery or payoff money in New York City, just being done in the form of drugs instead of money? What do you mean by the 20 to 30 percent being taken by law enforcement?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Perhaps I misunderstood the question, this previous question. When I referred to the 20 or 30 percent, I was referring to what the police seizes from what one group brings into the United States. I have no information that the police seize drugs that are then not vouchered.
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    Mr. MCCOLLUM. In other words, you have no information that they are using the drugs for their own purposes, selling it, reselling it, or something?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. No.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. No evidence of corruption?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. In the conversations that I have had, I do not know that.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. No evidence of any corruption in this regard?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I don't really.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Okay. I appreciate your clarifying that.

    I just have one or two more questions about New York City.

    I have heard you talk about warehouses, and I assume from your testimony these are apartments where drugs would be stored for awhile after they came to New York City. First of all, how are such apartments or warehouses selected by your group, and how often do the locations need to be moved for storing these drugs?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Generally, these are buildings where families live, family residences where somebody can live and carry out their tasks without calling too much attention to themselves.
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    There is really no specific expiration date, as it were, but in the case of this branch that was handled by Carlos, Carlos made the decisions according to his intuition because, as I said before, he had come from military intelligence and he made some decisions and took some actions that he did not share with anybody.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Can you comment on young people under the age of 18 involved in street-level trafficking in drugs in New York?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. You are asking me if I can comment on that?

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Yes, if you can give us a view. Is this common? Did you observe it? Have you heard about it? Is it an everyday thing or not?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. I have seen in Queens many young men standing on the corners, particularly on a street called Rosefeld, and also in other areas like the Village, and, in fact, I do believe there is quite a large group of people, young people, working in the distribution of this type. And, again, I must restate that this was 3 years ago.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. I understand. I appreciate that.

    In terms of how debt would be collected from one of your clients, could you elaborate on what would be done if somebody failed to pay Carlos or didn't come through with his end of the deal?

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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Generally, it would be a Dominican we are talking about; right?

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. I understand.

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Okay. The usual thing would be that he would speak to Alberto and to Hernando. They, in turn, would make contact in Colombia regarding this problem. They would hire the collectors. In other words, they would contact the representative of the group in New York who is in Colombia. Okay. And then the group would be given—Carlos would be given the way in which he could contact that group.

    Carlos would then speak to them about the problem, the ones in New York already, and undoubtedly they would then go to speak to the Dominicans and demand the payment.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Are these Dominicans in Colombia who were operating as representatives of the Dominicans in New York?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. No, no, no; Colombians.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Colombians. So there would be a contact with the Dominicans generally in Colombia?

    In other words—I am getting confused. I don't want to confuse you. Let's say we are down in Colombia now. You mentioned that Carlos would go back to Alberto and Hernando and there would be some representative in Colombia of the group in New York.
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    I presume you were referring to the Dominicans in New York as the group having a representative in Colombia. Is that correct? Did they have a Colombian representative in Colombia?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. No, no. I apologize. Perhaps I did not express myself really.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. If you could explain it again, I would appreciate it. How would this happen? If you wanted to collect on a debt that wasn't being paid by the Colombians—if Carlos wanted to collect and he talked to Alberto and Hernando about it—how did the negotiation happen? Did somebody threaten somebody, or what?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Carlos speaks to Alberto, and Alberto delegates authority from Hernando—on Hernando for him to contact—for Hernando to contact the representative of the collector. The representative of the collectors is in Colombia.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. And this is a Colombian, the collector's representative?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. And the collectors are also Colombian. He calls—the representative calls his group in New York, the collectors that are already in place in New York.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. So these collectors in New York are kind of the enforcers? They go out on the street and bang on the door of the Dominicans on behalf of Alberto and Carlos and say, ''Pay me the money or else,'' type of thing? Is that what we are talking about?
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Exactly.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. So they are professional enforcers or collectors that we are dealing with who are Colombians in New York but a separate group of people; is that right?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Yes, they are a separate group, and that's why we call them contractors.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. All right. So they are contractors to collect from these people who owed money. If they weren't successful in getting money, mere people killed?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Generally, that's what they do.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Okay. That's what I wanted to know.

    You have been very, very helpful, Mr. Rodriguez.

    Mr. Hutchinson, do you have any follow-up questions? I am not looking for another round of questions. I am just curious if you had any more.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Let me just ask one question, if that is all right, Mr. Chairman.
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    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Sure. We are ready to wrap this up, but I want to let you have the opportunity, Mr. Hutchinson.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Mr. Rodriguez, what were the tools of your trade with regard to weapons?

    Ms. CLANCY. With regard to?

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. To weapons.

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Actually, my group did not use any weapons. I believe that Carlos did have a gun, but I never actually saw it.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. So, basically, Carlos is high enough in the chain that you didn't need to have a significant number of weapons, and you utilized enforcers and other people to do that type of work?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. That would be the—yes, that would be the way.

    Mr. HUTCHINSON. Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Conyers, do you have a follow-up question?

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    Mr. CONYERS. Yes.

    Mr. Rodriguez, we have had a very good morning here. If you didn't have weapons, how did you protect the drugs that you were selling?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. The secret in keeping the warehouses safe is that nobody should know the location of it, and only one person, perhaps two, would know the location, and therefore it is not necessary to take any other measures.

    Mr. CONYERS. Well, how did you—how did you keep possession of all the money that you were handling? Nobody ever took anybody's money in your community?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Mostly all that happens at the distribution level, and the monies that are being stored in the warehouses are moved out very quickly. They are moved out very quickly to the money launderers.

    The same thing with the merchandise. When it arrives, it is moved out very quickly to avoid these risks.

    Mr. CONYERS. You mean you never had a shoot-out in your drug group?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Never.

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    Mr. CONYERS. Nobody ever got killed in your drug group?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. To my knowledge, none.

    Mr. CONYERS. Nobody ever got beat up in your drug group?

    Nobody ever got kidnapped in your drug group?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Yes, my brother.

    Mr. CONYERS. Well, what did they use? They had guns.

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. But he was kidnapped in Colombia.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. I think, Mr. Conyers, we are pretty well wrapped up unless you have something else.

    Mr. CONYERS. Just one question. Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

    Okay. Where in the chain of the organization did the African Americans come in?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. At the distribution level.

    Mr. CONYERS. What level——
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    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. But they are mostly connected with the customers of this organization, not directly with the organization.

    Mr. CONYERS. Did any of them ever work their way up beyond the distribution level?

    Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Not to my knowledge, no.

    Mr. CONYERS. Thank you very much.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you.

    If there are no further questions, we want to again thank you, Mr. Rodriguez, for today's hearing. You have been very good to come here today. It has been very constructive and meaningful testimony.

    Also I want to personally thank Ms. Clancy for being here.

    You have done a marvelous job of interpreting.

    Ms. CLANCY. Thank you.

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    Mr. MCCOLLUM. We thank you both.

    With that in mind, this hearing is adjourned. If everybody would wait in the audience until the witness has retired, it would be appreciated. We do that customarily when we have witnesses of a select nature like this.

    I should have said that before I adjourned the hearing. We thank the audience for your indulgence. As I said earlier, the hearing is adjourned.

    [Whereupon, at 12 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned.]

Table 1

Subcommittee on Crime
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida, Chairman
BOB BARR, Georgia
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina

MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
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PAUL J. MCNULTY, Chief Counsel
DAVID YASSKY, Minority Counsel


    October 16, 1997

    McCollum, Hon. Bill, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida, and chairman, Subcommittee on Crime


    Rodriguez, Mr., Former Member of the Medellin Drug Cartel, in Spanish, through an interpreter


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    McCollum, Hon. Bill, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida, and chairman, Subcommittee on Crime: Prepared statement

    Rodriguez, Mr., Former Member of the Medellin Drug Cartel: Prepared statement