Jaime Alberto Marin-Zamora, Colombian Drug Lord, To Plead Guilty In Miami Federal Court

Until last year, Jamie Alberto Marin-Zamora was one of the last leaders standing in Colombia's once-feared Norte del Valle Cartel. Nicknamed "Belo Marin," he ran a ring that distributed thousands of kilos of coke every year.

This morning, Belo Marin is surrounded by guards in Miami's Wilkie D. Ferguson Federal Courthouse, preparing to plead guilty to narcotics charges. He's just the latest Norte del Valle kingpin to fall -- a domino effect that started with Miami resident Andres Lopez's decision to flip to the feds.

We wrote in February about Lopez's remarkable transformation from a top Norte del Valle lieutenant into a federal snitch into the best-selling author of the hugely popular "Cartel del los Sapos" books and television shows.

Lopez's cartel, led by Wilber Verala, was once the most powerful in Colombia, stepping into the void left after the Cali and Medellin organizations were destroyed in the late 1990s. 

Lopez, who admitted to moving more than 50 tons of coke to the States, defected to the feds in 2000, and with his help, a laundry list of Norte del Valle leaders have been busted and sentenced to federal prison.

He's no longer working for the feds, but Marin-Zamora's plea hearing this morning is the latest evidence that the Norte del Valle has been all but gutted in the past decade.

Marin-Zamora, who is 47 years old, was arrested in September 2010 on Margarita Island, a Venezuelan resort.

He appeared before U.S. Judge Patricia Seitz at 8:30 this morning to change his plea, according to court records.


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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink