Uruguay extradites accused Mexican cocaine smuggler to United States - officials

Mark Hosenball

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Uruguay extradited a Mexican citizen to the United States where he is charged with international conspiracy to distribute cocaine and amphetamines, U.S. officials said on Friday.

The U.S. Justice Department said Gerardo Gonzalez Valencia, nicknamed "Lalo," 43, landed at Dulles International Airport near Washington D.C. late on Thursday from Uruguay, where he was arrested in April 2016. 

A U.S. indictment charges Gonzalez Valencia with participating in an international conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine, knowing that these drugs would be unlawfully imported into the United States. The indictment says Gonzalez Valencia’s smuggling conspiracy ran from 2003 to 2016.

He was scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in Washington later on Friday.

Gonzalez Valencia's lawyer, Hector Dotta, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Uttam Dhillon, acting chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Gonzalez' arrest dealt a blow to the leadership of an affiliate of the Jalisco drugs cartel, a criminal enterprise which has surged in reach and importance in the wake of U.S. moves to shut down other Mexican smuggling networks.

"Mr. Gonzalez Valencia is alleged to have distributed significant quantities of cocaine and meth and will now face justice in the United States," Dhillon said.

Gonzalez Valencia is part of a group called Los Cuinis, closely tied to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Los Cuinis are best known as the group's financial arm, responsible for laundering the cartel’s wealth and handling business in Europe and Asia.

At the time of his arrest in 2016, Uruguayan media reported that Gonzalez Valencia was accused of buying properties in the South American country to hide drug income.

Gonzalez Valencia's brother Abigail, the leader of the group, was arrested in 2015. In 2017, Brazilian authorities captured another brother.


(Reporting By Mark Hosenball in Washington; additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel in Mexico City; editing by Grant McCool)