By David Amoruso for Gangsters Inc.
One of the world’s biggest drug lords, Dairo “Otoniel” Antonio Úsuga David, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to leading the Colombian paramilitary and multibillion dollar criminal organization known as the Clan del Golfo.
The 51-year-old narco kingpin also pleaded guilty to related drug distribution charges. When sentenced, Úsuga David will face a mandatory minimum term of 20 years in prison and up to life in prison. He also agreed to pay a $216 million forfeiture money judgment.
“With today’s guilty plea, the bloody reign of the most violent and significant Colombian narcotics trafficker since Pablo Escobar is over. Úsuga David has now been held accountable for his leadership of the Clan del Golfo, which was responsible for trafficking tons of illegal narcotics from Colombia to the United States and incalculable acts of violence against law enforcement, military personnel, and civilians in Colombia and elsewhere,” stated United States Attorney Breon Peace.
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“The DEA investigated Otoniel—one of the most violent and prolific drug traffickers in the world—for almost 20 years,” Anne Milgram, DEA Administrator, added. “Under Otoniel’s leadership, Clan del Golfo shipped massive quantities of cocaine into the United States and killed rivals that threatened the cartels’ trafficking operations.”
Becoming el patron and avenging his murdered brother
Up until his arrest in October 2021, Úsuga David was the leader of the Clan del Golfo, a criminal organization responsible for exporting multi-ton shipments of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico and Central America for ultimate importation into the United States. His organization made – and executed - various plans to distribute narcotics via maritime vessels and also to manufacture and distribute cocaine.
Úsuga David served as a high-ranking figure within the Clan del Golfo from its inception in the early 2000s and was its principal leader since 2012. That year, police killed his brother – and the group’s previous boss – Juan de Dios Úsuga David in a raid at a New Year’s Eve party.
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Following his brother’s death, Úsuga David ordered that a multi-day shutdown or “strike” be imposed on towns and communities within the Clan del Golfo’s control. During the strike, members ordered that all businesses remain closed, and that residents stay in their homes. For multiple days, the streets remained empty as Úsuga David ordered sicarios to execute those who did not adhere to his orders.
The Clan Del Golfo
The Clan del Golfo is one of the most powerful criminal organizations in Colombia and one of the largest distributors of cocaine in the world. With as many as 6,000 members, the group exercises military control over vast amounts of territory in the Urabá region of Antioquia, Colombia, one of the most lucrative drug trafficking areas within Colombia due to its proximity to the Colombia-Panama border and the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
Clad in military uniforms, Clan del Golfo members employ military tactics and weapons to reinforce their power and incite wars and violence against rival drug traffickers, paramilitary organizations, and Colombian law enforcement authorities who threaten the organization’s control.
The group funds its operations primarily through drug trafficking. It imposes a “tax” on any drug traffickers operating in territory under its control, charging fees for every kilogram of cocaine manufactured, stored, or transported through areas controlled by the organization. The Clan del Golfo also directly exports cocaine, and coordinates the production, purchase, and transfer of weekly and bi-weekly multi-ton shipments of cocaine from Colombia into Central America and Mexico for ultimate importation to the United States.
Army of sicarios
To maintain control over its territory, Úsuga David and the Clan del Golfo employed an army of “sicarios,” or hitmen, who carried out murders, assaults, kidnappings, torture, and assassinations against competitors and those deemed traitors to the organization, as well as their family members. They murdered and assaulted Colombian law enforcement officers, Colombian military personnel, rival drug traffickers and paramilitaries, potential witnesses, and civilians.
Úsuga David also personally ordered murders of specific individuals, including the murders of rival drug traffickers, like individuals who worked for the organization run by Daniel Barrera Barrera, and snitches. He also ordered the torture and murder of an underling who provided information to Barrera’s organization. That individual was subsequently tortured, buried alive, exhumed, and beheaded post-mortem.
At Úsuga David’s direction, the group also carried out organized campaigns, referred to as “Plan Pistolas,” to kill Colombian law enforcement and military personnel using military-grade weapons, including grenades, explosives, and assault rifles. He also offered bounties for the murder of Colombian police officers and military personnel to intimidate law enforcement authorities and prevent them from capturing him or interfering in the clan’s business.
The U.S. offered a bounty of $5 million for information that led to his capture. Colombian authorities worked hard at locating the elusive drug lord. Úsuga David moved around a lot, mostly staying in rural safe houses, and did not use phones, preferring to use couriers to communicate his orders.
He was eventually arrested in Colombia’s Antioquia province in October of 2021. He was extradited to the United States in May of 2022.
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