2 Colombians Held in Plot to Buy Stingers : Drug war: Medellin cartel suspects accused of efforts to shoot down copters, kill President Barco, Cabinet.
Two Colombians linked to the Medellin cocaine cartel face charges of trying to buy Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and automatic weapons as part of a plot to shoot down Colombian government helicopters, the FBI said today.
FBI Special Agent William Gavin could not confirm an ABC News report that the weapons were to be used to kill Colombian President Virgilio Barco Vargas and his Cabinet.
Gavin said at least one other arrest is pending.
The suspect arrested in Miami, Luis Fernando Arcila-Giraldo, 28, claimed to be a close associate of Medellin drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar, Gavin told a news conference.
Arcila-Giraldo was arrested without incident Saturday near Miami International Airport and was scheduled to appear this afternoon before a U.S. magistrate, Gavin said.
The second suspect, Alfredo Antonio Ramos-Tinoco, 47, was arrested without incident Saturday while playing pool at the Marriott Hotel. He is scheduled to appear before a U.S. magistrate in Tampa this afternoon.
Both men were charged with conspiracy to receive stolen property, conspiracy to export arms without a license and aiding and abetting the importation and possession with intent to distribute marijuana and cocaine.
Gavin said both men had negotiated with undercover agents in Polk County to buy Stinger missiles and automatic weapons with proceeds from cocaine and marijuana sales. Ramos-Tinoco told undercover agents that he had recently imported “thousands of pounds” of marijuana into the United States.
Last Tuesday, undercover agents showed the two suspects a Stinger missile and the two men later agreed to make a $1-million down payment for an unspecified number of Stingers, Gavin said.
The FBI also seized marijuana and semi-automatic weapons and pistols from a Miami house that both men had visited.
“The missiles were to be exported to Colombia to be used against Colombian government helicopters,” Gavin said. “We know of no assassination plot in association with this case.”
Gavin said he has no information on the relationship between Arcila-Giraldo and Escobar, except for the suspect’s own comments to undercover agents that he was a “close associate.”
The FBI began an undercover investigation April 18 after the suspects approached Polk County undercover agents asking to buy the Stinger missiles, Gavin said.
“The representation was that the money was to come from the proceeds of marijuana and cocaine sales,” Gavin said.
U.S. Magistrate Paul Game Jr. of Tampa issued arrest warrants for the suspects after the Tuesday meeting with undercover agents, Gavin said.