Credit to Author: Keith Fraser| Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 00:04:55 +0000
A Mexican man suspected of links to a “significant cocaine broker” and charged in a major drug conspiracy has been ordered committed for extradition to the United States.
On April 16, 2019, Jose Barba-Ruiz, also known as “Picoso,” was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency at Vancouver International Airport after arriving on a flight from Mexico.
RCMP arrested him after receiving information from the United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration that he was wanted in the U.S. on drug conspiracy charges.
U.S. authorities allege that Barba-Ruiz, a father of two, is a secretary to Roberto Castellanos-Meza, said to be a major drug dealer operating in Mexico.
An investigation led to two maritime seizures of large shipments of cocaine in October and November 2016 and involved authorized wiretap intercepts of BlackBerry messages and an unidentified co-operating witness who worked closely with Barba-Ruiz and Castellanos-Meza, according to the U.S. authorities.
The messages show that on Oct. 18, 2016, crew members were aware that they were being followed by aircraft and sought permission to jettison the cargo of cocaine, with Castellanos-Meza giving the permission to do so, say the authorities.
The co-operating witness, who has pleaded guilty to offences against the U.S., is expected to identify Barba-Ruiz as the user of multiple BlackBerry personal identification numbers that were intercepted during the course of the investigation, they say.
Barba-Ruiz is alleged to have discussed brokering sales authorized by Castellanos-Meza of specific “brands” of cocaine and to have negotiated sales of sample cocaine.
Communications intercepted also allegedly have Castellanos-Meza instructing Barba-Ruiz to bring drug ledgers and collected cash to him at his home.
At his extradition hearing, Barba-Ruiz’s lawyer conceded that the evidence was enough to establish that the conduct he was alleged have have engaged in, had it been committed in Canada, would justify committal for trial.
His lawyer also admitted that the person in court was the same person who had been arrested by RCMP at the Vancouver airport but argued that the Crown had not proven that Barba-Ruiz is the same person who is being accused of committing the alleged offences.
But in her ruling on the case, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Heather MacNaughton concluded that the person before the court is the person named by the U.S. authorities and that there was a “prima facie” case that he is the person who engaged in the alleged conduct.
The judge ordered Barba-Ruiz committed into custody to await a decision by the federal justice minister of whether to surrender him to the U.S. He has 30 days in which to appeal the extradition committal order.
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