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FBI: New Jersey Turnpike fugitive arrested in Paraguay

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

A drug kingpin who vanished into the swamps behind the Vince Lombardi rest stop off the New Jersey Turnpike was captured in South America — after nearly getting away again.


Alberto Chavez, 29, and another man were transporting four kilos of cocaine worth $500,000 in a rented van when FBI agents and State Police rushed them in the popular rest stop’s parking lot in Ridgefield in late August, the FBI said.


Chavez fled into the meadows as agents were arresting Bryant Benitez, 25, of Washington, D.C., the bureau said. See: FBI, State Police catch one fugitive, seek help finding other


Chavez, of Silver Spring, Md., was originally arrested Friday night in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, as he tried to cross the border into Brazil. Paraguayan authorities said they found him carrying bogus identification that combined his picture with his brother’s information.

However, they released him “due to an administrative error,” an FBI spokesperson said late this afternoon.

Authorities there “later determined through Interpol that Chavez was wanted by the United States for narcotics trafficking and Paraguayan narcotics agents and police captured Chavez again in Puente de la Amistad, Paraguay on Saturday morning,” the FBI said in a release. “This time, Chavez was jailed in the city of Asuncion where he remains.  A Paraguayan judge signed a detention order giving the United States 60 days to file an extradition request.”

“This capture is the fifth apprehension abroad this year of a fugitive wanted by the FBI in Newark,” said Weysan Dun, the outgoing Special Agent in Charge of the bureau’s New Jersey field office.

The others:Gazmir Gjoka, by Albanian police in November for narcotics trafficking;

  • Edmund Osei, by Ghanan Police in October for bank robbery;
  • Edwin Pena, by Mexican National Police in the Spring for identity theft;
  • Nelson Marquez, by Filipino authorities, also in the spring, as a fugitive seeking to avoid prosecution for murder.


“In this day and age, the FBI is truly global,” Dun said. “Our partnerships with law enforcement agencies around the globe make the world a much smaller place to hide.”

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