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US

Wife of colonel who led anti-drug effort denies cocaine charges

December 2, 1999
Web posted at: 7:48 p.m. EST (0048 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The wife of a U.S. Army colonel who led anti-drug efforts in Colombia pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine and heroin into the United States.

Laurie Anne Hiett, wife of Col. James Hiett, was arraigned on a 13-count indictment in federal court in Brooklyn. The indictment alleges that between April and June, "she sent six packages of drugs from Colombia to New York City," said prosecutor Lee Dunst.

Laurie Anne Hiett was served with an arrest warrant in late June after a package containing 2.7 pounds of cocaine and heroin was mailed from the U.S. military base in Bogota with her name on the return address label. On August 5, she turned herself in and was released on a $150,000 bond.

The package was sent to a residence in Queens where authorities found a second bag of cocaine and $13,000. The man living there, Hernan Arcila, admitted he received five or six shipments of drugs from Bogota and had been paid $1,500 for each, investigators said.

Arcila and Jorge Ayala, a U.S. Embassy chauffeur in Bogota, face federal charges in connection with the alleged shipments. Each pleaded not guilty Thursday.

A military investigation of Col. Hiett cleared him of wrongdoing. He requested and was granted a transfer from Colombia, where he had been in charge of the U.S. military group providing assistance to the Colombian government's counter-narcotics campaign.

Col. Hiett is now assigned to the training and doctrine command in Virginia.



RELATED STORIES:
Wife of U.S. anti-drug commander in Colombia charged in cocaine smuggling
August 5, 1999

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