BOGOTA, Colombia – Police say they found $19 million in cash under the floorboards of a house in Cali on Saturday.
The stacks of $100 bills, wrapped in plastic bags, were buried in two metal chambers under the first floor of a residence in the southern city, said Gen. Oscar Naranjo, head of the judicial police, on Caracol Radio.
Naranjo said the hidden loot likely belonged to Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, among a dozen alleged top drug kingpins in Colombia whom U.S. authorities targeted for arrest using a $5 million reward for information.
Ramirez Abadia is also believed to be the owner of $60 million in dollars, cash and gold ingots police seized during five previous raids in Cali over the past month.
Ramirez Abadia is believed to be a member of the Norte del Valle drug cartel, which operates near Cali, Colombia's third largest city about 185 miles southwest of the capital of Bogota.
As part of an intense operation against the cartel, police have conducted 43 raids in the city during the past three days. "We're maintaining a constant pressure over the entire city," Naranjo said.
The Norte del Valle cartel became Colombia's most powerful after the dismantling of the Medellin and Cali cartels in the 1980s and early '90s. It is believed to be responsible for as much as 30 percent of the more than 550 tons of Colombian cocaine smuggled each year to the United States.
The noose around the cartel has been tightening since last year, when the army killed eight members of a private army believed to be protecting Diego Montoya, the organization's alleged mastermind who is on the FBI's 10 most-wanted list.
On Jan. 15, police arrested his brother, Eugenio Montoya, in a raid on a ranch in western Colombia.