Thirty-Nine Individuals Indicted for Drug Trafficking in the Municipality of Ceiba, Puerto Rico
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 15, 2011|
SAN JUAN, PR—On September 8, 2011, a federal grand jury indicted 39 individuals as a result of an investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) - Fajardo Strike Force, announced today United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. The defendants are charged in a six-count indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin, “crack” (cocaine base,) cocaine, marijuana, Oxycodone (commonly known as “Percocet”), and Alprazolam (commonly known as “Xanax”). Count six charges 21 defendants with using and carrying firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
The object of the conspiracy led by two women and two men was to distribute and supply controlled substances at the Jardines de Ceiba Public Housing Project and other areas within the municipality of Ceiba for significant financial gain. The leader was Karen Santiago-Vélez, aka “La Gorda” and “La Bichota”; her two brothers, Juan C. Santiago-Vélez, aka “Cabestro” and “El Gordo,” and Erick Santiago-Vélez, aka “Catote” and “Gargola”; and their mother and owner of the Percocet and Xanax distribution point, Carmen A. Vélez-García, aka “La Vieja” and “La Mother.”
The defendants and their co-conspirators would purchase wholesale quantities of heroin, cocaine, marihuana, Xanax and Percocet in order to distribute the same in street quantity amounts at their drug distribution points. The leaders would routinely use and employ juveniles under the ages of 18 to distribute narcotics.
The 39 co-conspirators had many roles, in order to further the goals of the conspiracy, including: four leaders, four managers/drug owners, four enforcers, one supplier, 10 runners, and 16 sellers.
The “drug owners” would often receive proceeds from the sale of specific controlled substances. These controlled substances were sold in distinctive baggies, vials or packaging, using stickers or brands in order to identify, and maintain control of the drugs disseminated at the drug distribution points. It was further part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that the defendants and their co-conspirators when preparing an accounting of narcotics sold, otherwise known as “the tally sheet,” would use different letters to refer to the different types of narcotics sold and the people who sold them, as a way to hide from other persons, the real meaning and purpose of the document. They would use their homes to process kilogram quantities of narcotics for street level sales. The members of the drug trafficking organization would use force, violence and intimidation in order to gain and maintain control of their drug points and in order to intimidate rival drug trafficking organizations and/or expand their drug trafficking activities.
“We will continue to vigorously pursue those who choose to become involved in drug trafficking organizations and wreak havoc on our communities,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “The arrests in this case clearly demonstrate the dedication and commitment of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners to rid our communities of violent offenders. Ceiba will certainly be a safer place without the presence of these individuals.”
“Today’s law enforcement operation dismantles the Jardines de Ceiba drug trafficking organization, and it is worth mentioning that the leadership of this criminal enterprise was composed of family members and relatives,” said Carlos Cases, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI-San Juan Field Office. “These arrests should lead to a safer community at the Jardines de Ceiba Public Housing Project and its surrounding neighborhoods.”
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Cesar Rivera-Giraud.
If convicted, the defendants face a minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment, with fines of up to $8 million. Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.