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Darli Velazquez-Armas : Bounty hunters in Spain

Last updated on 20:09 - by El NACHO - Tags :

Spanish police have arrested a suspected cocaine trafficker who was wanted in the United States and had undergone facial surgery to avoid detection, nabbing him after a foot chase through a cemetery, officials said Monday.
Darli Velazquez-Armas, a 33-year-old Cuban citizen, was arrested last week in the Canary Islands in a raid coordinated with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Interior Ministry said.
According to U.S. court documents, Velazquez-Armas was arrested on Jan. 30 in a DEA sting operation involving 130 kilos (290 pounds) of cocaine shipped to Miami from Ecuador.
A U.S. grand jury indicted him on drug trafficking charges. He pleaded not guilty and posted a $1 million (€700,000) bond Feb. 20, and was required to surrender his travel documents. His trial was scheduled to begin April 16. Velazquez-Armas failed to appear at a March court hearing, and was declared a fugitive on May 14.
Spanish authorities caught up with him in June in a Madrid suburb, but he escaped a dragnet after ramming his car into a police car.
Velazquez-Armas was later spotted in the town of Vecindario on Gran Canaria, one of Spain's Canary Islands, where he had continued to engage in drug trafficking, and officials put him under surveillance, the Spanish ministry said.

Last Friday, police chased him from Vecindario to the capital city Las Palmas. At one point the suspect got out of his car and fled on foot through a cemetery. He later attempted two carjackings before police finally arrested him in an industrial area, and even then he tried to grab an officer's gun, the ministry said.

When a drug trafficking suspect skipped out on a $1 million Federal bond, the bail bonds company traced him to Spain by going through his garbage for clues.
Just weeks after posting a $1 million bond, Darli Velazquez-Armas skipped bail. On March 10th, 2007 Federal authorities were alerted that something was wrong when Velazquez’s electronic monitoring bracelet sent a failure signal that the defendant had failed to report home. The huge bond was posted in the U.S. Southern District Federal Court in Miami, Florida. The $1,000,000.00 Federal bond was underwritten by a California bail bond insurance company.
Within days of jumping bond investigators for Bail Yes Bonding, a Miami based Nationwide bail bond company discovered that Velazquez had fled on a private plane to the Dominican Republic out of Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport located in Southwest Miami-Dade County, where from there the case went cold. Veteran bounty hunter Rolando Betancourt was hired by the bail bond company to track down and capture the fugitive. Betancourt went to work in Miami on several leads focusing mainly on the defendant’s parents and ex-wife, all of which had signed as indemnitors on Velazquez's bond. Betancourt directed teams of investigators across several states, coordinating all aspects of the investigation. "We really pulled-out all the stops on this case” said Betancourt, pooling our resources and working closely with government agencies as is typical today for high-risk fugitive recovery operations. Betancourt went as far as renting a garbage truck to make un-scheduled garbage runs at the defendant’s Miami home. One day, fearing they had been spotted, they were forced to pick up the neighbor's garbage down whole length of the street, “It was a real smelly mess”, recalled Betancourt, “but it had to be done”. The early morning garbage runs paid off, amongst the bags of debris were shredded documents that investigators were able to reconstruct yielding a cache of information including used calling cards, bank records, and pages from a First Class in-flight magazine belonging to a European Airline, leading the investigators to believe the defendant was somewhere in Europe, quite possibly the Country of Spain.
In June after weeks of grueling 24 hour round the clock surveillance of various locations Betancourt received a tip that members of Velazquez's family were planning an overseas trip, he was able to follow the defendant’s ex-wife to Miami International Airport were she, her two children and other members of the fugitives family had gathered to board an Iberia flight destined for Madrid, Spain. Betancourt always prepared for the un-expected did not hesitate to buy a ticket to Madrid and as luck would have it was seated next to one of the defendant’s family members. Prior to departing Betancourt coordinated with DEA agents in Miami and the U.S Embassy in Madrid who alerted the Spanish authorities of the situation. Upon arriving at the Madrid airport, Spanish Police were there to escort the bounty hunter off the plane. At the Iberia baggage claim area the suspect’s family were pointed out to the Spanish authorities and the family group was followed for nearly an hour in early morning rush hour traffic to a luxury Chalet in an exclusive suburb of Madrid. Surveillance was established at the residence with the coordination of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Madrid Country office and members of the Spanish National Police SNP Fugitive Unit. Shortly thereafter Velazquez was observed getting into a brand new Toyota Land Cruiser SUV with his entire family. Velazquez recklessly broke through the Police dragnet after which a high speed chase ensued through the narrow, winding streets of Majadahonda a suburb of Madrid, ending only when Velazquez ran a female SNP agent off the road causing her to crash her motorcycle. Velazquez then fled on foot, the bruised and injured agent was unable to pursue him because a passenger in the fugitives vehicle blocked her as she was getting up from her downed motorcycle. Left behind were the fugitive’s two crying children, the ex- wife, a hysterical sister, brother in-law and two nephews. One of the nephews was placed under arrested for aiding in the escape of the fugitive and other related charges. Betancourt was of course upset, but this mishap only fueled his conviction to go after the defendant even harder, thus sealing Velazquez’s fate.

After a week of searching Madrid's inner neighborhoods and following up on the smallest of leads, the battered bounty hunter returned to the United States empty-handed. Betancourt was determined to finish the case, but in reality he knew, he was starting all over again from day one. After weeks of extensive surveillance of the defendant’s known associates, and another transatlantic trip, small leads began to trickle in indicating the defendant might still be hiding out in Spain. Betancourt was requested back to Europe for a third time by the bail bond company mainly due to this new information which also coincided with the approaching Fathers Day weekend were it was believed that the defendant would attempt to contact his children. Betancourt being a seasoned bounty hunter targeted several Madrid neighborhoods offering rewards for any information of the defendant. After several frustrating weeks of scouring most of the cities in Southern Spain with no results, Betancourt returned to the U.S. and called upon the resources of Interpol, the DEA and other law enforcement agencies while continuing to direct teams of investigators who were pursuing leads in Florida and elsewhere. With some of Betancourt’s European assets and their arsenal of sophisticated high technology systems he soon discovered that the defendant was not in Spain at the moment, but was visiting other countries in Europe and would most probably be returning to Spain in the near future. Betancourt was again dispatched to Europe were upon further investigations he concluded that the most likely final destination would be Las Palmas, in the Grand Canary Islands. Betancourt's hunch proved right, actually arriving in Las Palmas two days ahead of the defendant. After seven days of canvassing targeted neighborhoods throughout the majestic Island and seemingly endless 24 hour street level surveillance, Betancourt telephoned the Miami bail bond company saying that he was certain that Velazquez was near with a sense that he was walking the same streets as the defendant. “I felt it was now only a matter of days or hours, before I would run into him, we were breathing the same air ...” said Betancourt. Late afternoon on Thursday August 9th, he spotted the elusive fugitive at a luxurious home in the town of Vecindario just south of the Las Palmas Airport. Velazquez, now sporting a full mustache in a feeble attempt to change his appearance, was casually talking with a neighbor, dressed in his favorite color of brown as his hunter silently walked passed him confirming it was indeed Velazquez, Betancourt called DEA agents in Miami, Florida who immediately alerted their DEA counterparts and U.S. Embassy officials in Madrid Spain. After an all night surveillance of the defendant’s hideout the Spanish National Police where dispatched to aid in the apprehension of the defendant. While the Spanish Police were setting up surveillance of the home the fugitive Velazquez was seen leaving the residence and entering a waiting vehicle with other individuals later identified by authorities as Velazquez’s Spanish attorney, her husband and their eighteen year old pregnant daughter. The vehicle was followed and when Spanish Police attempted to stop them a chase ensued covering a distance of several kilometers ending when they made a wrong turn into a dead end street. Velazquez by now a veteran of these situations, again fled with flair, this time running through a cemetery and attempting two carjacking's ; one a vehicle occupied by two women and a motorcycle, almost causing the driver to fall off. Velazquez then jumped onto the back of a passing truck, hanging on for his life, while in hot pursuit was a determined Spanish Police officer who was able to grab him and pull him off the moving truck, Velazquez and the officer stumbled to the ground, as they scuffled Velazquez attempted several times to disarm the officer, as wayward shots were fired, the officer now fighting for his life eventually was able to subdue the defendant taking him into custody. Velazquez suffered several fractured ribs and facial cuts requiring stitches. He was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment before being booked into the local jail. Authorities fearing that Velazquez poses a serious security threat have dispatched a Spanish Naval Vessel to pick up and transport the dangerous drug kingpin to the mainland, were local authorities are expected to hand over the defendant to U.S. Marshals Service Agents in Madrid for extradition to Florida were he will stand trial for drug trafficking and possible bond jumping charges.

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