US sanctions Colombian drug trafficker and emerald companies

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The U.S. Treasury Department is imposing sanctions against the leader of a major Colombian cocaine trafficking organization and several emerald companies authorities say were used to launder illicit drug profits.

Officials said Tuesday they are taking action against Pedro Rincon to shut off the flow of cocaine proceeds through his group's elaborate network of emerald mines and seemingly legitimate businesses.

U.S. authorities allege the trafficking organization distributed multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Colombia through Venezuela, Mexico and other countries since at least 2003.

Rincon himself was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to 20 years in jail on a murder conviction. Authorities say he continued trafficking drugs even behind bars.

Coca production in Colombia surged to levels unseen in two decades of U.S. eradication efforts in 2016.