International drug trafficker sentenced to 30 years in prison

International drug trafficker sentenced to 30 years in prison

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WDAM) - This is a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Gregory Joel Sitzmann, 65, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role as the leader of an international drug trafficking and money laundering ring that operated for at least 14 years out of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Bahamas, France, Italy, Spain and other countries.

The sentencing was announced by U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, Special Agent in Charge Clark E. Settles of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in Washington, D.C., and Chief Cathy L. Lanier of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

Sitzmann, who was born in Iowa, had most recently resided in Colombia.  He was found guilty by a jury on May 21, 2012, of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.  The verdict followed a six-week trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  Sitzmann was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman of the District of Columbia.  Upon completion of his prison term, Sitzmann will be placed on 10 years of supervised release.  The judge also ordered Sitzmann to pay a $500,000 fine.

According to the government's evidence, Sitzmann used and conspired to use numerous individuals and artifices to transport hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia and Mexico into the United States and into numerous countries around the world.  For example, Sitzmann used commercial airplanes, and luggage, automobiles and trucks with secret compartments to move the drugs.

Evidence showed that Sitzmann has been involved in drug smuggling and money laundering since at least the 1980s and that he provided hundreds of kilograms of cocaine to a Hells Angels motorcycle gang in Montreal throughout the 1990s.  He maintained corporations and bank accounts in Panama, Switzerland, Luxembourg and elsewhere to facilitate his money laundering and the purchase of assets.

"Gregory Joel Sitzmann was a career wholesale cocaine trafficker who operated an international drug conspiracy at the highest levels that involved over 1,300 kilograms of cocaine," said U.S. Attorney Phillips.  "He directly acquired cocaine from the drug cartels of Colombia and Mexico to transport into the United States and other countries around the world.  Now, after years of eluding justice, he has been convicted and will spend an appropriately significant amount of time in prison for his crimes.  This case shows our determination to combat narcotics traffickers at the highest levels in all corners of the world."

"The strong investigative work of our HSI special agents and law enforcement partners dismantled this international drug trafficking organization – one that operated on multiple continents and supplied a significant amount of cocaine to the United States," said Special Agent in Charge Settles.  "Today's sentence concludes Sitzmann's long journey from drug kingpin to being just another convicted drug trafficker."

"The defendant in this case attempted to delay justice for several years," said Chief Lanier.  "Today's sentencing is yet another example of the resolve that we, as law enforcement, have towards following through on investigating and prosecuting drug traffickers to the greatest extent possible."

Sitzmann was indicted on Aug. 7, 2008, by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for activities that took place during the 1990s and at least until 2004.  The day after the indictment, Sitzmann was deported from France to the United States, where HSI special agents arrested Sitzmann.  He has been in custody ever since.  The defendant delayed trial for years, utilizing numerous attorneys while alternating with demands to represent himself.

The prosecution grew out of the efforts of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a multi-agency team that conducts comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.  The principal mission of the nationwide program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation's drug supply.

In recent years, investigations by this task force have led to the arrests and indictments of dozens of people from drug organizations that operate in the Washington, D.C., area.

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Phillips, Special Agent in Charge Settles and Chief Lanier expressed appreciation for the work of the many dedicated people who pursued the investigation, including the HSI special agents and the investigators from the MPD.  They also thanked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Colombian National Police, the French National Police, French Customs, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Royal Bahamas Police for assistance in the investigation.  They acknowledged the work of those who handled the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office of the District of Columbia, including Paralegal Specialists Crystal Barclay, Candice Sisco and David Hollingsworth; Legal Assistants Tammy Scott and Diane Brashears; Victim/Witness Coordinator Dawn Tolson-Hightower; and Litigation Technology Specialists Ron Royal and Joshua Ellen.

Finally, they thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys George Eliopoulos and Sharad Khandelwal of the District of Columbia, who prosecuted the case.

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