Carmelo Capone-Mazzeo, 56, of Argentina was taken into custody Tuesday on a U.S. warrant, Justice Department spokeswoman LaTonya Miller said. The specific charges on the warrant were not immediately available.
A 1988 indictment in Philadelphia accuses him and three others of smuggling 1,300 kilograms of cocaine from Argentina on several cargo ships, one of them named "Democracy."
The drugs were concealed in hundreds of cartons of anchovies shipped on three different vessels from January 1987 to September 1988, the federal indictment said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia declined comment on how Capone-Mazzeo fled the criminal case.
The 56-year-old has been listed as a wanted fugitive on Interpol's website, which describes him as 6-feet tall and 200 pounds.
It was not clear if he has a lawyer or when he might be extradited.
His co-defendants in the drug indictment were listed as Carlos Alberto Diaz-Gomez, Daniel Fernando Pena-Lopez and Roberto Alcaino-Baez. Online court records do not show if any of the defendants were ever captured or if any court hearings were held.
The ships were traveling from Buenos Aires to Philadelphia, with a final destination of New York. In one case, the defendants hid 1,100 kilos of cocaine in 1,000 cartons of anchovies, the indictment said.
The U.S. Marshal's Service did not immediately have any further details on the capture.