Reuters International

Colombian drug trafficker Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, better known by his alias "El Valenciano", is escorted by Venezuelan national guards before his extradition to the U.S. at Simon Bolivar Airport outside Caracas, Venezuela in this file photo dated December 15, 2011. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo


By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Colombian drug trafficker who the U.S. government says was the ringleader of an extensive network that shipped thousands of kilograms of cocaine to the United States was sentenced on Wednesday to 27 years in prison.

Maximiliano Bonilla-Orozco, also known as "Valenciano," was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sandra Townes in Brooklyn, nearly five years after he was captured in Venezuela, prosecutors said.

A lawyer Bonilla-Orozco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to U.S. authorities, Bonilla-Orozco, 44, led an extensive narcotics exportation and transportation organisation that distributed thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia through Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico to the United States.

He received the cocaine from various sources in Colombia, including the rebel group Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional, and dealt frequently with the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico, authorities say.

According to the U.S. State Department, Bonilla-Orozco was linked to the transportation of more than $25 million in drug-related proceeds from the United States to Mexico.

He was indicted in 2008, and secretly pleaded guilty that year while agreeing to cooperate with U.S. authorities, according to court records.

But in 2009, Townes issued a bench warrant for Bonilla-Orozco after prosecutors revealed that his cooperation had not been fruitful and that his U.S. lawyer had lost contact with the Colombian.

The U.S. State Department listed Bonilla-Orozco among its most-wanted drug traffickers in Colombia and the government offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest. He was captured in Venezuela in November 2011.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Alan Crosby)


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