NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - A notorious Colombian drug lord who once led a paramilitary group and later a brutal and feared criminal enterprise faced a judge in New York City on Tuesday after nearly a decade behind bars in his homeland.
Federal agents with the DEA Task Force,DEA, NYPD, NYSP assisted by HSI and USMS brought Daniel Rendon-Herrera, also known as "Don Mario," from Bogota to Brooklyn Monday after Colombian officials signed off on his long-delayed extradition.
Rendon-Herrera, 54, appeared in federal court in Downtown Brooklyn to face charges of leading a continuing criminal enterprise. He pleaded not guilty.
He is the founder and one of the leaders of Clan Usuga, one of the largest criminal groups in Colombia, according to U.S. authorities.
"As alleged in the indictment, Rendon-Herrera led a major Colombian drug trafficking enterprise that imported tons of cocaine into the United States and employed hitmen who carried out acts of violence across North and South America in furtherance of the organization," U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement. "The United States is committed to cooperating with our international partners to dismantle illicit organizations like Clan Usuga and stem the destructive effects wrought by this violent armed criminal group."
The clan's hitmen—known as sicarios—committed "murders, assaults, kidnappings and assassinations to collect drug debts, maintain discipline, control and expand drug territory," according to federal authorities.
Rendon-Herrera had a reputation for wearing expensive and flashy suits and lighting his cigars with $100 bills, the New York Post reported.
"Don Mario was the most feared narco-terrorist in Colombia," DEA Special Agent-in-Charge James Hunt said in a statement. "He is known as the old man who ignited Clan Usaga's reign of terror while besieging the United States with hundreds of tons of cocaine."
In April 2009, authorities in Colombia raided Rendon-Herrera's territory and found him hiding in a jungle. The operation involved hundreds of police officers, according to a report. At the time of his arrest, Don Mario was Colombia's most wanted drug lord.
In subsequent years, courts sentenced him to prison for various crimes but denied requests from U.S. officials to extradite him.
Finally, in November 2017, the Colombian Supreme Court ruled that Rendon could be extradited to the United States to face charges.