Colombia midfielder Viafara gets 11 years on US drug charge

Colombia Midfielder Viafara Gets 11 Years On Us Drug Charge
Fernando Vergara

FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2011 file photo, Jhon Viafara of Colombia's Junior de Barranquilla celebrates after scoring against Brazil's Gremio during a Copa Libertadores soccer match in Barranquilla, Colombia. The former midfielder for Colombia's national soccer team was extradited on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 to the U.S. to face drug trafficking charges.

SHERMAN, Texas (AP) — A former midfielder for Colombia’s national soccer team has been sentenced in a Texas courtroom to more than 11 years in prison for drug trafficking, according to U.S. prosecutors.

Jhon Viafara was sentenced during a hearing in federal court in Sherman, Texas, on Wednesday.

Viafara, 42, a native of Robles, Colombia, pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to import 5 kilograms or more of cocaine into the United States. He had been extradited to the U.S. in January 2020.

Prosecutors accused Viafara of conspiring with members of the Gulf Cartel to organize cocaine shipments that left Colombia on speedboats and went to Mexico before ultimately ending up in the U.S. The former soccer player had been under investigation for three years.

“The defendant in this case had it all, worldwide fame, wealth, and stature — despite all of this, he chose to use his talents to advance the evil of the drug trade,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas Ganjei. “Traffickers should take note, no matter who you are; no matter where in the world you live; the United States will prosecute you if you join in a conspiracy to send drugs to our country.”

Viafara played for 10 clubs during his career, including Premier League sides Portsmouth and Southampton. In 2004, he helped Colombian team Once Caldas win the Libertadores Cup, South America’s top club competition.