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U.S. judge sentences Colombian warlord to 16 years for drug-trafficking

FILE - In this May 13, 2008 file photo, Colombian paramilitary Rodrigo Tovar Pupo is escorted in handcuffs by U.S. DEA Agents as he arrives to Opa-locka, Florida. A U.S. judge on Friday, Oct. 6, 2015 sentenced the former Colombian paramilitary leader, alias "Jorge 40", to just over 16 years in prison for conspiring to import tons of cocaine to the U.S. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

FILE - In this May 13, 2008 file photo, Colombian paramilitary Rodrigo Tovar Pupo is escorted in handcuffs by U.S. DEA Agents as he arrives to Opa-locka, Florida. A U.S. judge on Friday, Oct. 6, 2015 sentenced the former Colombian paramilitary leader, alias "Jorge 40", to just over 16 years in prison for conspiring to import tons of cocaine to the U.S. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

A U.S. federal judge on Friday sentenced a former Colombian paramilitary leader to more than 16 years in prison for drug trafficking.

Rodrigo Tovar, better known by his alias Jorge 40, was one of more than a dozen right-wing militia leaders extradited to the U.S. in 2008 after then-President Alvaro Uribe accused them of breaking the terms of an earlier peace deal.

Unlike the other warlords, Tovar refused to negotiate and instead fought the drug charges. While he admitted to imposing a war tax on cocaine moving through the Caribbean countryside he once lorded over he said he wasn't personally involved in the trade and attributed any wrongdoing to Colombia's conflict.

With time served and good conduct, federal Judge Reggie B. Walton in Washington said Tovar could be released in under five years.

The son of a military officer, Tovar was born around the same time in the same sleepy Caribbean capital of Valledupar as the man who became one of his chief battlefield adversaries: the rebel leader known by his alias Simon Trinidad.

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Troops under Tovar's command were responsible for some of the worst paramilitary atrocities that took place in northern Colombia. Information pulled from an associate's computer was key in unlocking secrets about the connection between the political elite in the Caribbean region and the right-wing militias, eventually leading to the arrest or investigation of dozens of lawmakers in Colombia's so-called para-politics scandal.

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