Alleged member of La Oficina de Envigado pleads guilty to role in drug trafficking conspiracy tied to Medellín cartel


Date: April 28, 2023


BOSTON — A Colombian man pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Boston to his role in a drug trafficking conspiracy connected with organized crime in the Republic of Colombia.

Mario Zapata Velez of Medellín, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to make extortionate threats, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, collection of credit by extortionate means and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin scheduled sentencing for July 25, 2023. Zapata was indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2020 along with co-conspirators Fabio de Jesus Yepes Sanchez, Miguel Colindres and Juan Pablo Ariasgil.

Zapata and, allegedly, Yepes were members of La Oficina de Envigado (La Oficina), a criminal organization based in Medellín, Colombia. La Oficina originated in the 1980s when its members provided enforcement and collection services for the Medellín Cartel, including deceased Medellín Cartel leader Pablo Escobar. Today, La Oficina is allegedly involved in international narcotics trafficking, drug debt collection, money laundering, extortion and murder for hire.

Zapata and, allegedly, Yepes conspired to use threats to extort approximately $750,000 in drug debt from two cocaine traffickers based in Massachusetts. Zapata and, allegedly, Yepes also conspired with Colindres and Ariasgil to obtain five kilograms of cocaine from the Massachusetts traffickers, sell those kilograms, and then repatriate the drug proceeds to Colombia, in partial satisfaction of the outstanding drug debt.

On April 24, 2023, Colindres was sentenced to 51 months in prison and three years of supervised release after previously pleading guilty to his role in the cocaine conspiracy. In May 2022, Ariasgil was sentenced to four years in prison and four years of supervised release after previously pleading guilty to his role in the cocaine conspiracy. Yepes has not pleaded guilty and is pending trial.

The charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison, a minimum of five years and up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of up to $10 million. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins and Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division made the announcement today. Valuable assistance in the investigation was provided by the Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs of the Justice Department; Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations in Boston; and the Government of Colombia. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lauren A. Graber and Jared C. Dolan of Rollins' Criminal Division prosecuted the case.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.