USA v. Melo, Carlos Fernando
New York, NY
Carlos Fernando Melo was extradited in April 2022 from Columbia to the U.S. for narco-terrorism, firearms, and drug-trafficking offenses. Melo, a Colombian national, was taken into custody by Colombian authorities in April 2021 at the request of the United States, extradited to the United States, and arrived in the Southern District of New York in April 2022 from Colombia. Between approximately September 2019 and December 2019, Melo attempted to purchase explosives and firearms, including machine guns, from individuals he understood to be arms traffickers for use by two organizations then designated by the Department of State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations: the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia ("FARC") and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional ("ELN"). Unbeknownst to Melo, the arms traffickers with whom he was negotiating were, in actuality, DEA confidential sources. During these meetings, a confidential source posing as a weapons broker introduced Melo to two other confidential sources who claimed to be weapons dealers. These confidential sources, in turn, introduced Melo to an undercover law enforcement officer who purported to be a member of the terrorist organization Hizballah with access to explosive material and firearms. In the meetings, Melo reiterated that he was seeking to broker weapons deals for the FARC and ELN, which he claimed to have done in the past. Melo provided the sources with a coded list of weapons that the FARC and ELN wanted to purchase. He also represented that he had spoken with leadership in the FARC and ELN regarding their interest in acquiring weapons and explosive material. Ultimately, Melo requested more than 300 machine guns for the FARC as well as explosive material and mercury for the ELN. While Melo initially suggested that the FARC would pay for their weapons in cocaine, Melo later told the confidential sources that the FARC would pay cash for their arms, and that Melo had another contact who would sell cocaine to the confidential sources for importation into the United States. Melo also explained during these meetings that he sought to purchase the firearms and explosives because the FARC and ELN wanted to conduct attacks in Colombia. He detailed particulars of these planned attacks, which included the possible kidnapping and murder of a DEA agent in Colombia and the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. Melo said that killing a DEA agent would be a "trophy" for the FARC or ELN and that he had a particular assassin in mind who could carry out the murder.