One of South America’s biggest cocaine kingpins, who evaded police for three decades, even undergoing surgery to change his face, has been captured, Brazilian authorities said Saturday.
Luiz Carlos da Rocha, nicknamed White Head, was arrested in the western state of Mato Grosso in a city called Sorriso, which means “smile,” the federal police said in a statement.
Da Rocha had changed his name to Vitor Luiz de Moraes and undergone plastic surgery to successfully dodge police while continuing to run his international drugs business.
His alleged right hand man was also captured in a separate location during the operation in which police said 150 agents carried out 24 raids, seizing an estimated $10 million worth of luxury cars, aircraft, farms and other property.
The name of the operation was “Spectrum,” referring in Portuguese to the phantom-like nature of a fugitive “who lived discreetly and in the shadows… evading police attempts for almost 30 years,” the police statement said.
Police said that in addition to using extreme violence and being protected by forces with heavy caliber weapons, da Rocha changed his face.
When narcotics police homed in on their suspect in Mato Grosso, agents studied “photographic data with the old facial characteristics of Luiz Carlos da Rocha and the current identity photograph of Vitor Luiz de Moraes, and concluded that Luiz Carlos da Rocha and Vitor Luiz are the same person.”
The captured fugitive is accused of having headed an enormous cocaine network, which included production in the jungles of Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, and continued through to distribution on the continent and as far away as the United States and Europe.
He is also accused of being one the main suppliers to the violent drug traffickers that hold sway in large areas of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. He is believed to have amassed $100 million in personal wealth, police said.
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