After decade, alleged drug lord caught in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Federal authorities arrested a fugitive alleged drug kingpin Saturday after a decade-long chase through the Caribbean marked by his narrow escapes and public taunting that he paid off police to remain free.

Known as the Pablo Escobar of the Caribbean, Jose Figueroa Agosto was wearing a wig while driving through a working-class Dominican neighborhood of San Juan when he realized he was being followed. He tried to run on foot. But U.S. marshals, FBI, drug enforcement agents and Puerto Rican police caught up.

"We asked him his name, and he simply answered that we knew who he was," said Antonio Torres, who heads the U.S. Marshal Service's fugitive task force in Puerto Rico.

Figueroa, 45, is suspected of shipping Colombian drugs to the U.S. mainland through Puerto Rico, where he escaped from prison in 1999 using a forged release order. He had served only four years of a 209-year sentence for killing a man suspected of stealing a cocaine shipment.

He moved to the Dominican Republic a month later and was briefly detained during a 2001 drug investigation, but was let go because he was using an alias.

Though no one can say exactly how much cocaine he moved, the scale of Figueroa's empire emerged following a botched September raid, which netted several cars, including an armored Mercedes-Benz with $4.6 million in cash inside, and a laptop computer full of evidence.

A man claiming to be Figueroa called a popular Dominican radio show in December to say he got away after paying police $1 million. He called again in February and pledged $800,000 to anyone who would kill one of two top Dominican police officers.

After decade, alleged drug lord caught in Puerto Rico 07/17/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 17, 2010 9:47pm]

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