May 2, 2020 – United States District Court Judge Federico Moreno out of Miami denied Colombian drug kingpin Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela’s petition for a compassionate release this week. The 81-year old founder of the Cali Cartel filed a brief with Moreno last month seeking relief from a 30-year prison sentence on the grounds of bad health amid the Cornavirus crisis. Rodriguez-Orejeula has battled stomach and colon cancer in recent years

In the 1990s, Rodriguez-Orejeula, nicknamed “The Chess Master,” led the Cali Cartel and was responsible for pumping hundreds of thousands kilos of blow into North America. Authorities estimated the Cali Cartel was responsible for supplying 80 percent of the U.S. coke market in 1994. Rodriguez-Orejeula’s son manned the fort for the cartel in the U.S., residing in South Florida. His rise and fall are depicted in the first season of the hit Netflix show Narcos where he was portrayed by actor Damian Alcazar.

The Cali Cartel rocketed to prominence in the aftermath of rival Pablo Escobar’s death in 1993. Escobar, one of the globe’s most iconic criminals of all-time, headed the Medellin cartel and died on the run from the law in a hail of bullets on a Colombian rooftop shootout with authorities. The Rodriguez-Orejeula brothers were considerably more diplomatic in their affairs then Escobar — although still violent in their own right — and their organization was more sophisticated in its structure.

Rodriguez-Orejuela founded his Cali Cartel in the 1970s as a marijuana distribution network, before moving into cocaine trafficking the following decade. He began his climb in the Colombian underworld during the 1960s in the kidnap racket. Colombian officials arrested him in June 1995 and he was sent to prison in his home country for 15 years. DEA records predicted Rodriguez-Orejeula was worth 2 billion dollars at the time of his arrest.

After accidentally being released for five months in 2002, Rodriguez-Orejuelas was taken back into custody in March 2003 and then was extradited to the United States in December 2004. Two years later, he pleaded guilty in federal court in Florida to money laundering and received a 30-year bid. He’s been serving his time in a North Carolina prison medical unit.

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