Costa Rica Dismantles Gang Linked to Sinaloa Cartel

Costa Rica Dismantles Gang Linked to Sinaloa Cartel

By Gustavo Arias Retana/Diálogo
November 18, 2020

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Costa Rican authorities reported that, in several interagency operations, they dismantled a gang that operated in the country’s north and worked together with the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel.

“[The operation] relates to a criminal group based in our country that had a direct relationship with the Sinaloa Cartel and that was using our territory to export cocaine hydrochloride to Mexico,” Walter Espinoza, Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigations Police (OIJ, in Spanish) general director, said in a press conference on September 10.

To carry out this operation, 11 simultaneous raids were conducted on September 9, where Costa Rican agents detained two women and seven men, the OIJ said in a press release. The gang shipped cocaine to Mexico mainly by air, using different clandestine airstrips in Costa Rica, the OIJ said.

“The judicial police learned [in 2019] that a criminal group had settled in our country, led by an individual named Patterson,” Espinoza said. “The criminal structure’s mode of operation was to store cocaine hydrochloride, locate clandestine airstrips in our territory, and use these locations for aircraft to land illegally, in order to later transfer the drug to Mexican territory.”

The criminal ring also engaged in arms trafficking. During the 11 operations, authorities seized 358 kg of cocaine; high-caliber weapons, such as AK-47s, Mini Uzis, and AR-15s; ammunition; and several vehicles, the OIJ added.

Costa Rican national Patterson, the gang leader, had already been arrested on March 27, 2020 in Alajuela province, together with his right-hand man, another Costa Rican citizen named Gómez, “when they were carrying 259 packages containing cocaine hydrochloride […], which they were going to ship outside the country using clandestine airstrips,” Espinoza said.

Patterson was the manager and legal representative of an international freight company with 23 transport units in his name, which authorities said he used for narcotrafficking.

Authorities captured another important member of the criminal gang, a Mexican national named Leal García, who was the liaison with the Sinaloa Cartel. García was apprehended in a car carrying 57 kg of cocaine, on May 26 in Heredia province, the OIJ indicated.

The ring included three other individuals who focused exclusively on finding and preparing clandestine airstrips to move drugs by air, in addition to a police officer who was allegedly involved with the criminal gang. All have been detained, law enforcement forces said.