Four men and a woman including a Panamanian court employee were arrested in Panama in a plot to kill a U.S. drug enforcement agent, prosecutors said Friday in announcing the five would face a U.S. trial.
The five belonged to a Colombian drug organization that considered itself at war with U.S. drug agents, authorities said.
The defendants were arrested Thursday in Panama by Panamanian authorities and were expelled to the United States for prosecution, Acting U.S. Attorney Lev L. Dassin said in a release.
They were being brought to the United States for initial court appearances but were not expected to arrive before Saturday. Lawyers were expected to be assigned to them in New York. Two others were charged in the case but remain at large, authorities said.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan said the defendants plotted to kill a suspected Drug Enforcement Administration informant and the DEA agent who worked with the informant, but the plan was revealed by another DEA informant the defendants did not know was cooperating with U.S. authorities.
The complaint said one defendant, Carlos Alexander Silva Baltan, 31, told a DEA informant that the drug organization intended to kill the DEA agent stationed in Colombia in retaliation for a narcotics seizure by Colombian authorities in Buenaventura, Colombia.
The complaint, signed by DEA Agent Michael Acanfora, said Baltan explained that his desire to kill the federal agent was personal because some of his friends were killed by foreign law enforcement during a shootout that occurred when the drugs were seized.
Dangers of the job
Another defendant, Liliana Esperanza Resfa Velez Munoz, was described in court papers as the secretary for the 38th Municipal Criminal Court in Colombia. The complaint said Munoz had access to investigative requests made by law enforcement personnel, including intercepted telephone lines and other communications and surveillance.
"This case highlights the danger that our colleagues in law enforcement face every day in the line of duty," Dassin said. "We are fortunate that the DEA put a stop to this plot before it could unfold."
The complaint charged the defendants with conspiracy to murder a U.S. agent and conspiracy to import narcotics.
Prosecutors said the five discussed the murder plot during the last month as they worked on plans to buy 240 barrels of ephedrine, a precursor to methamphetamine.
During the discussions, Baltan described the DEA agent's vehicle and said he and his co-conspirators were going to "erase (the agent and informant) from the map," the complaint said.
He also said the agent would be the first to die, the complaint said.
The defendants were arrested after they traveled to Panama on Thursday to meet with the informant regarding the murder plot and the ephedrine transaction, authorities said.
If convicted, the defendants could face life in prison.