Caribbean Corridor Strike Force Dismantles Drug Trafficking Organization Responsible for Transporting Drugs and Money Between Puerto Rico-Culebra-St. Thomas
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 01, 2014|
SAN JUAN—This morning, the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF) dismantled a drug trafficking organization responsible for the importation of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine into Puerto Rico and the transportation of drug money between Puerto Rico-Culebra-St. Thomas, announced United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez today.
On March 27, 2014, a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging David Pina-Lico, aka El Negro; Alexis Acosta-Monell, aka Pulpo; Johnathan Saldaña-Garcia; Victor Cruz-Resto, aka Pulga; Charlie Martinez-Pimentel, aka Pajarito; Noel Rodriguez-Lopez, aka Gordo, aka Gordo Gurabo; and Israel Adorno-Perez, aka Rafita, aka Gafita, with participating in a conspiracy to import controlled substances; conspiracy to possess controlled substances, namely cocaine; conspiracy to launder monetary instruments; and money laundering.
The investigation leading to today’s arrests uncovered that members of this organization would take orders from individuals in Puerto Rico interested in purchasing kilogram quantities of cocaine in St. Thomas. The organization would receive the money for the payment of the narcotics from the buyers in Puerto Rico and would coordinate the delivery of the money to the sellers in St. Thomas. Once the money arrived to St Thomas, the organization would arrange for the smuggling of the narcotics into Puerto Rico. The organization coordinated the movement of drugs and money in phases: the money was first moved from the east coast of Puerto Rico to Culebra, either in motor vessels or via the ferry; once the money arrived to Culebra, it was then transported to St. Thomas in motor vessels. The drugs were smuggled into Puerto Rico using the same system, from St. Thomas to Culebra and then to Puerto Rico.
The indictment includes a forfeiture allegation for the proceeds obtained as a result of the organization’s illegal activities, the motor vessels that were used during the smuggling operations, and a vehicle.
“These arrests are a clear indication of the success of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force in the fight against drug trafficking. Today’s arrests dismantles an organization that coordinated not only the traffic of drugs within the eastern Caribbean but also the movement of drug money, essential to the success of these illegal activities,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We will continue maximizing all of our combined resources to investigate and prosecute those who disregard our laws and try to smuggle illegal contraband into our jurisdiction.”
“The DEA Caribbean Division will continue its effort to fight the drug trafficking organizations who continue to utilize the eastern Caribbean Corridor between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, using the islands of Culebra and Vieques as transshipment points,” said Vito Salvatore Guarino, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Caribbean Division. “These arrests are one more example that the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force continues to prove its value as an effective tool to coordinate multi-agency efforts to disrupt and stop the flow of drugs between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands via Culebra and Vieques.”
“These arrests are proof that Homeland Security Investigations remains vigilant and that along with our partners in the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force will continue using our robust investigative authorities to identify, investigate, and apprehend those involved in drug trafficking,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “HSI and our CCSF partners will not tolerate the importation of illegal drugs into the United States through Puerto Rico.”
The case was investigated by agents from the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF). The CCSF is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. CCSF is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of DEA, HSI, FBI, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Attorney Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and PRPD’s Joint Forces for Rapid Action.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Carlos R. Cardona.
The defendants are facing terms of imprisonment from 10 years to life for the narcotics violations and up to 20 years for the money laundering violations. Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.