MIAMI (Reuters) - A major Colombian drug runner who once worked with the Medellin cartel pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiring to bring cocaine into the United States.
Fabio Enrique Ochoa Vasco, 48, faces from 10 years to life in prison and agreed to forfeit $15 million in cash and property. He entered the plea in a U.S. District Court in Tampa, Florida.
Ochoa Vasco, who surrendered in Miami in January, led a drug operation that moved tons of cocaine from Colombia to the United States by cargo ship, speedboat and airplane, prosecutors said.
U.S. authorities once offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to his arrest and conviction, and they alleged that he had ties to a now-demobilized paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.
Prosecutors said he was involved in trafficking for three decades and worked with the Medellin Cartel run by Colombia's most famous drug lord, Pablo Escobar, in the 1980s and 1990s.
Despite the similar name, Ochoa Vasco is not related to Fabio Ochoa Vasquez, one of Escobar's right-hand men, who is serving a prison sentence in the United States.
Ochoa Vasco agreed to forfeit assets including apartments in Medellin and Bogota, real estate in Miami and Mexico, a $1 million island, a plane, a hotel, the rights to a soccer player and $720,000 worth of loans to two people described in court papers only as "Maestro" and "Humberto," according to the plea deal.
(Reporting by Jim Loney, editing by Jane Sutton and Cynthia Osterman)