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December 22, 2014

Twelve Former Puerto Rico Police Officers Sentenced to Prison for Running Criminal Organization Out of Police Department

WASHINGTON—Twelve former Puerto Rico police officers have been sentenced for using their law enforcement affiliation and equipment to commit robbery and extortion, and to sell illegal narcotics and manipulate court records.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico and Special Agent in Charge Carlos Cases of the FBI’s San Juan Division made the announcement.

The following 12 defendants have been sentenced:

  • Osvaldo Vazquez-Ruiz was sentenced to 138 months in prison. Vazquez-Ruiz pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2014, to conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
  • Orlando Sierra-Pereira was sentenced to 157 months in prison. Sierra-Pereira pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2014, to conspiracy to violate RICO and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
  • Danny Nieves-Rivera was sentenced to 157 months in prison. Nieves-Rivera pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2014, to conspiracy to violate RICO and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
  • Roberto Ortiz-Cintron was sentenced to 154 months in prison. Ortiz-Cintron pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2014, to conspiracy to violate RICO and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
  • Yovanny Crespo-Candelaria was sentenced to 70 months in prison. Crespo-Candelaria pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2014, to conspiracy to violate RICO.
  • Nadab Arroyo-Rosa was sentenced to 78 months in prison. Arroyo-Rosa pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2014, to conspiracy to violate RICO.
  • Jose Flores-Villalongo was sentenced to 78 months in prison. Flores-Villalongo pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2014, to conspiracy to violate RICO.
  • Eduardo Montañez-Perez was sentenced to 63 months in prison. Montañez-Perez pleaded guilty on Aug. 15, 2014, to conspiracy to violate RICO.
  • Carlos Candelario-Santiago was sentenced to 63 months in prison. Candelario-Santiago pleaded guilty on Aug. 15, 2014, to conspiracy to violate RICO.
  • Ruben Casiano-Pietri was sentenced to 78 months in prison. Casiano-Pietri pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2014, to attempted Hobbs Act robbery.
  • Ricardo Rivera-Rodriguez was sentenced to 33 months in prison. Rivera-Rodriguez pleaded guilty on Aug. 25, 2014, to attempted Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right.
  • Christian Valles-Collazo was sentenced to 78 months in prison. Valles-Collazo pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2014, to attempted Hobbs Act robbery.

All 12 of the above defendants were sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel R. Dominguez of the District of Puerto Rico, and the remaining four defendants convicted in this case are scheduled to be sentenced in January 2015. At the time of the crimes, Flores-Villalongo and Candelario-Santiago were sergeants with the Police of Puerto Rico; the others were police officers.

The officers convicted of the RICO conspiracy admitted to being members of a criminal organization that sought to enrich its members through a pattern of illegal conduct. Over the course of the conspiracy, the officers worked together to conduct traffic stops and enter homes or buildings used by persons suspected of being engaged in criminal activity to steal money, property and narcotics. The officers also planted evidence to make false arrests, and then extorted money in exchange for their victims’ release from custody. In exchange for bribe payments, the officers gave false testimony, manipulated court records and failed to appear in court when required so that cases would be dismissed. Additionally, the officers sold and distributed wholesale quantities of narcotics.

As just a few examples of their criminal conduct, in April 2012, Vazquez-Ruiz and Sierra-Pereira conducted a traffic stop in their capacity as police officers and stole approximately $22,000 they believed to be illegal drug proceeds. Vazquez-Ruiz later attempted to extort approximately $8,000 from an individual he believed to be a drug dealer’s accomplice in exchange for promising to release an alleged prisoner.

Further, in November 2012, Sierra-Pereira, Nieves-Rivera, Ortiz-Cintron and Valles-Collazo illegally entered an apartment and stole approximately $30,000, which they believed was illegal lottery proceeds.

The defendants frequently shared the proceeds they illegally obtained and used their power, authority and official positions as police officers to promote and protect their illegal activity. Among other things, the defendants used their police firearms, badges, patrol cars, tools, uniforms and other equipment to commit the crimes and concealed their illegal activity with fraudulently obtained court documents and falsified police paperwork to make it appear that they were engaged in legitimate police work.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s San Juan Division. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Brian K. Kidd, Emily Rae Woods and Menaka Kalaskar of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mariana E. Bauzá of the District of Puerto Rico.

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