Indictment Charges 126 Individuals in Puerto Rico for Drug Trafficking
Defendants Face a Forefeiture Allegation of $76 Million
|U.S. Attorney’s Office August 28, 2013|
SAN JUAN—U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez announced the indictment and arrest of 126 defendants charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of controlled substances. Today, FBI agents and officers of the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), the agencies in charge of the investigation, executed the arrest warrants with assistance from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshals Service.
The indictment, handed down August 15, 2013, by a federal grand jury and unsealed in federal court today, charges 126 individuals with conspiracy to knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute cocaine base (crack), heroin, cocaine, marijuana, oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet), and alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax), all within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising a public or private school and/or playground at the Morales Ward (Barriada Morales) in the Municipality of Caguas, Puerto Rico.
The indictment alleges that beginning in 2005, the organization operated six different drug points located within Barriada Morales. These drug points would have fixed prices for each type of drug in order to maintain the parity of the sales among the drug points.
The 126 co-conspirators had many roles in order to further the goals of the conspiracy. The following are the roles as alleged in the indictment: 18 leaders or drug point owners; 26 enforcers; three drug processors; 23 runners/suppliers; 40 sellers; and 16 facilitators. All defendants are facing a forfeiture allegation of $76 million.
Some of the defendants and their co-conspirators would be paid $500 a week in exchange for their job as enforcers. During the holiday season, the sellers would often receive a cash award or a “Christmas bonus” in addition to their regular pay.
The indictment further alleges that the co-conspirators would have access to different vehicles, usually parked in strategic locations, inside and outside Barriada Morales, in order to transport money, narcotics, and firearms. These vehicles would often be used by some of the defendants and their co-conspirators to conduct drive-by shootings and to go out and “hunt” rival gang members.
Fifty-two of the co-conspirators are charged with using and carrying firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Some of the defendants and their co-conspirators would often act as look-outs and armed surveillance at five strategically located observation points, used to alert other co-conspirators of the presence of law enforcement agents and/or rival drug traffickers.
During daylight hours, the armed surveillance would be conducted with pistols and revolvers. At night, the co-conspirators in charge of the armed surveillance would conduct the same by possessing, carrying and brandishing high power rifles, often altered to function as fully automatic.
The members of the conspiracy used force, violence, and intimidation in order to scare rival drug traffickers and members of their own organization. Sometimes, the leaders would discipline the members of their own organization by breaking their legs and arms using an axe handle.
“Violent drug trafficking gangs should take note and know that we are determined to break their grip on communities and that they will face severe penalties for their crimes,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “Federal and local law enforcement agencies remain committed to using every tool available to attack these criminal organizations and to reduce gang violence and bring narcotics and firearms violators to justice.”
“The FBI’s message is clear and unequivocal. We will work together with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to assign all necessary resources to identify, locate, and arrest violent crimes offenders. They will face our justice system. They will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Carlos Cases, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Puerto Rico.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alberto López-Rocafort and Teresa Zapata and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor O. Acevedo-Hernández are in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in prison. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The defendants were the targets of a long-term Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDEFT) investigation, responsible for drug trafficking in Puerto Rico. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.