The head of a major Colombian criminal group, who had already admitted to drug trafficking charges in the United States, received a 45-year prison sentence on Tuesday. A judge in Brooklyn referred to him as “more prolific” than the late drug lord Pablo Escobar.
Dairo Antonio Usuga David, famously known as Otoniel, led the Clan del Golfo cartel. U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry stated that Otoniel had shipped nearly 100,000 kg (220,500 pounds) of cocaine to the U.S., describing it as an “extraordinary” amount. She rejected claims from Otoniel’s defense that likening him to Escobar was an exaggeration.
Judge Irizarry told Otoniel’s lawyers, “There have been many drug dealers who were more prolific than Pablo Escobar, including your client.” The 45-year prison term was in line with the request from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn.
Otoniel was apprehended by Colombian armed forces close to the country’s border with Panama in October 2021. He was extradited to the U.S. in May 2022 and pleaded guilty in January of the following year.
Before his sentencing, Otoniel expressed regret in court towards his victims, as well as the U.S. and Colombian governments. He also offered advice to the people and youth of Colombia, urging them not to follow the path he had taken.
Colombia has long experienced conflict involving rebel groups, paramilitaries, criminal organizations, and the government. Otoniel spoke to this context, saying, “To the people and to the youth of Colombia, I advise them and warn them not to take the path that I have taken.”
Otoniel’s lawyers had requested a maximum prison term of 25 years, citing his admission of guilt and a difficult childhood marked by his involvement as a child soldier. However, the judge highlighted that many individuals born into similar circumstances had not become cartel leaders.
“Clan del Golfo,” also known as Gulf Clan, consists primarily of over 1,000 armed men who were once members of right-wing paramilitary groups. Otoniel rose to leadership after his time as a left-wing guerrilla and later as a paramilitary fighter.