BUFFALO, N.Y. – The former leader of a Colombian paramilitary drug-trafficking organization, who oversaw the distribution of significant quantities of cocaine from Colombia to the United States, was deported Dec. 26, by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). Upon his return to his home country, he was turned over to Colombian law enforcement officials.
Hebert Veloza Garcia, 50, a former leader of Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia or AUC, was deported via ICE Air Operations under escort by ERO deportation officers. Veloza Garcia was transferred into ERO custody from the Bureau of Prisons in October 2016, after serving more than eight years in federal prison. He is wanted by Colombian officials for forced displacement and threats. Veloza admitted in Colombian court that he ordered or personally participated in the killing of dozens while leading the AUC.
Veloza Garcia was convicted in 2009 in U.S. federal court on charges of conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and distributing cocaine in the United States, as the head of a sophisticated drug trafficking organization which operated for at least a decade, beginning in 1998.
“The removal of Mr. Garcia highlights ICE’s highest enforcement priorities, which focuses resources on removing criminal aliens,” said Thomas Feeley, field office director for ERO Buffalo. “This convicted drug kingpin will now face justice in his home country.”
Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 1,700 foreign fugitives from the United States who were sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. In fiscal year 2016, ICE conducted 240,255 removals nationwide. Ninety-two percent of individuals removed from the interior of the United States had previously been convicted of a criminal offense.