In court, U.S. drugs agent tells of kidnapping, escape in Colombia

Luis Angel Ortiz was being driven to a party in Medellin when the car came to a halt and a man in the back seat put a gun to his head.

Time to pay up, Ortiz was told.

The threat came from the chief of a Medellin drug trafficking gang.

So began a 48-hour drama in Colombia that kept Ortiz — a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who had infiltrated the gang — teetering on the edge of death.

But Ortiz escaped execution when his captors discovered that he was an American anti-drug agent.

According to Ortiz's account to the FBI, his kidnappers panicked, apologized -- and even surrendered a firearm while they asked him not to expose them, according to an FBI report obtained by El Nuevo Herald.

The details of Ortiz's December 2005 ordeal, recently made public, came up in federal court in Puerto Rico in a case involving a convicted drug trafficker named Byron Jiménez Castañeda. Jiménez had been accused of acting as a "judge" in a trial against Ortiz back in Colombia.

Using court documents and the statements Ortiz gave the FBI, El Nuevo Herald reconstructed the sequence of the kidnapping, which might have ended in an international fiasco for Colombia.

In mid-2005, Ortiz, who had worked for ICE since 2001, got into a dispute with the organization run by Colombian trafficker Luis Albeiro Peña Peña, which Ortiz had infiltrated.

At issue: the seizure of a cargo of 217 kilos of cocaine between Venezuela and the island of St. Marten. The traffickers apparently blamed Ortiz for the loss of the drugs.

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