DRCNet Response to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
"Operation Cornerstone" began in 1991 with the seizure of 12,000 kilograms of cocaine related to the importation of concrete fence posts. The source of this cocaine was Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, one of the Cali mafia bosses, and information resulting from Operation Cornerstone unveiled his south Florida distributor, Harold Ackerman. Information gathered during the course of this investigation resulted in the DEA Miami Division seizing over 29,000 kilograms of cocaine from the Orejuela organization.
Most significantly, several of those charged in Operation Cornerstone were prominent American lawyers who served as attorneys for the Rodriguez-Orejuela organization in the United States, including a former chief of the Office of International Affairs at the Department of Justice, two former Assistant U.S. attorneys, and 56 other individuals.
The indictment charging them alleged that many of these attorneys participated in offering, arranging, and delivering monthly subsistence payments to the family members of traffickers arrested as part of Operation Cornerstone and related investigations. In addition to the subsistence payments, the Rodriguez brothers paid the legal fees for these criminal defendants, such payments being contingent upon the defendants remaining silent about the organization.
The indictment further charged that many of these lawyers also laundered narcotics proceeds on behalf of the organization. By their actions, the lawyers inhibited efforts by law enforcement to neutralize the organization's cocaine trafficking activities, and enabled the Rodriguez-Orejuela organization to continue their criminal operations.
The final phase of Operation Cornerstone culminated in June 1995 with the indictment of 61 members of the Rodriguez-Orejuela organization.
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