José Orlando Henao Montoya, a former policeman who became leader of the so-called North Valley Cartel, was born on May 5, 1953, in Cartago, Colombia. He received several nicknames in life. One day he could be “The businessman of drug trafficking”, another day “Don H” but the one that causes the most intrigue is “The man in overalls”.
The last one emerged from a telephone conversation intercepted by the Colombian authorities between Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela and a fugitive from justice, Helmer Herrera known as “Pacho”.
In the conversation, Rodriguez asks an unusually fearful Herrera to contact an intermediary to explain to “The man in overalls” a doubt in relation to accounting balances that had aroused his fury and that made the Cali cartel partners fearful for their lives.
¿Where did Orlando Henao Operate?
His area of influence extended to the metropolitan area of Cali and he was investigated mainly for the hauling of drugs from a laboratory owned by a man known in the world of drug trafficking as “Bazuco” to the port of Buenaventura.
This was done with the active collaboration of retired Armed Forces officers, very well supplied with high-caliber weapons, media and off-road vehicles. He was also investigated for illicit enrichment. This last charge was the most controversial.
According to the agencies dedicated to the fight against drug trafficking in Colombia, he was the owner of a large fortune that could hardly come from lawful activities as a result of his efforts in raising livestock, as he claimed.
Orlando Henao Evades the Authorities
Despite the overwhelming evidence about the illicit origin of Orlando Henao’s fortune, the Attorney General of the Republic, Gustavo De Greiff, refrained from opening an investigation for illicit enrichment.
In the first place, due to the inconsistencies between the value of a property located in a Cali neighborhood declared in the document and the value determined by the expert.
The Prosecutor De Greiff accepted as valid the declaration of his owner, who fixed the value of the same in 6,000,000 Colombian pesos, while the expert established the value of the house in 125,990,600 pesos, claiming that the first one came from a public document, subtracting credibility from the expert’s judgment due to lack of precision.
Secondly, the Prosecutor agreed with the fact that what was produced by the livestock activities were sufficient to justify the ownership of those goods, as well as the fact that “Don H” had been favored by luck by winning the Colombian Lottery jackpot on December 30, 1985.
This did not stop the course of justice. The suspicions were maintained due to the expense with which Henao lived. In February 1995, officials of the Search Block searched a house that he owned, located in the exclusive area of Altos de Lili, which is attributed a value for the period of 5,000 million Colombian pesos.
After many raids made between the Police and the Army, the Prosecutor’s Office decided to order his arrest for the crime of receiving money from activities related to drug trafficking. However, such an order was not maintained even for two months, because on July 18, there was a counter order that nullified any attempt to arrest “Don H”.
Orlando Henao vs The Cali Cartel
At first, all of them were friends and partners, however, after the division of the Cali Cartel, The North Valley Cartel was formed with Orlando Henao at the head and the problems between them would begin.
When the leaders of Cali, Miguel and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela and José Santacruz Londoño were behind bars, Henao would take the opportunity to weaken them, since he wanted to be the new king of the city.
In March of 1996, in collusion with Colonel Danilo González and Carlos Castaño Gil, they assassinated Chepe Santacruz, when he was a fugitive from justice.
Two months later, in May of the same year, it was Nicol Parra’s turn, a sicario in the service of the Cali Cartel, who was killed at the Rio D Enero Restaurant in Cali. In the same attack Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela’s son, William Rodríguez Abadía, suffered very serious injuries, but miraculously he survived.
After this, Henao would also order the death of other hitmen who worked for the Cali godfathers.
Orlando Henao Makes Peace with the Cali Cartel
After all the attacks committed, the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers send a message to Henao and The North Valley members, claiming that if the bloodshed did not stop, they would go to the authorities and reveal everything they knew about them, including the name of their closest collaborators.
Henao and his people could not underestimate the power of the Orejuela, so after this threat they decided to put aside the war and make peace with the drug lords.
¿How was Orlando Henao Captured?
On September 29, 1997, Henao decided to voluntarily surrender to justice, since, having a great influence within the prosecution and the government, he was only going to stay for a short period of three years.
Orlando Henao and Pacho Herrera
After Orlando Henao surrendered to the authorities, Pacho Herrera would take the opportunity to attack his trusted man, Wilber Varela, AKA Jabón, however, the hitman and future drug lord would survive. Henao decides not to retaliate against Pacho for the attack.
Later, Henao finds out that Pacho Herrera has intention to collaborate with the North American justice against him, so he decides to send Varela to end his life. In this way they put an end to the life of the drug lord, who died on November 4, 1998.
¿How did Orlando Henao Die?
After the death of his brother Pacho, José Manuel Herrera, aka the Invalid, was eager for revenge. He was imprisoned in the same prison as Henao.
In an attempt to hide his guilt, Henao offers his friendship to José Manuel, and tells him that he has nothing to do with the death of his brother, that his lieutenant Varela acted without his consent and that if necessary he would make him pay for it.
What Henao did not know was that the invalid did know that he had given the order for Pacho’s death, so somehow he managed to introduce two weapons to the prison, and with them on November 13, 1998, he would murder José Orlando Henao Montoya.
¿What Happened to the North Valley Cartel After Orlando Henao’s Death?
After his murder, the North Valley Cartel was divided into two groups: One, led by Diego Montoya Sánchez and another headed by Wilber Varela; both were part of another group called “Los gatilleros”.
This fact meant a mutation of the power relations around the activity, since the discrete style based on bribes and favors granted with which Henao managed to evade arrest warrants and investigations, alternated with punctual killings destined to break some resistance, it was replaced by simple and pure violence, with the execution of criminal actions related to the settling of accounts in the struggle for the control of power.
Orlando Henao and The Television
The Man in Overalls is not saved from appearing in different television series, among them are:
- In “The Snitch Cartel”, he appears under the name of Oscar Cadena and his character is played by Fernando Solórzano.
- In the third season of the Narcos series, the Colombian actor Julián Arango is in charge of playing his character.