News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2006

DEA HIDTA San Juan OCDETF Operation Crash Boats Nets 30 Arrests, 157 Kilograms of Cocaine, 3,000 Dosage Units of Ecstasy (Mdma), 1 Machine Gun, 7 Vehicles and $13,040 U.S. Dollars

Jerome M. Harris, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Caribbean Division, announced the arrest of nineteen (19) members of a drug trafficking organization as part of Operation Crash Boats. The arrests took place during the week of March 6-10, 2006 in the municipalities Peñuelas and Caguas after members of the organization met on numerous occasions during said week with DEA undercover agents to negotiate the importation and distribution of thousands of kilograms of cocaine from the island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Also five (5) vehicles and $13,040 were seized during this DEA undercover operation.

The individuals arrested were: Jose Gomez-Sanchez, Stivis Taveras, Eric Ramos-Ortiz, Ramiro Zuñiga-Sanchez, Jose Coto-Rivera, Juan Rosario-Bravo, Orlando Sarate-Taveras, Jose Santiago-Lopez, Luis Nuñez-De La Rosa, Rochely Medina-Flores, Wilma Claudio-De Jesus, Richard Doherty-Garcia, Edwin Castillo-Martinez, Richard Camacho, Sixto Castro-Rivera, Omego Torres-Barrio, Juan Melendez-Fernandez, Joaquin Burgos-Osorio and Lillian Rodriguez-Sanchez. On March 8, 2005, a Federal Grand Jury in the District of Puerto Rico indicted these individuals and accused them of violations of Title 21 U.S. Code, Sections 841 (a) (1), 846, 952, 963, 853, 881 and Title 18 U.S. Code, Section 2.

Operation Crash Boats began in February 2005 as joint investigation between the DEA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) San Juan Major Organizations Initiative (MOI) and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS). The investigation targeted a drug trafficking organization suspected of transporting cocaine and heroin from Colombia, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic into Puerto Rico using fishing boats. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) later joined the investigation, which became an Organized Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, named Operation Crash Boats.

Between February and October of 2005, DEA undercover agents met on numerous occasions with other members of the drug trafficking organization to negotiate the importation of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia, via Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. In June 2005 a Federal Grand Jury indictment was issued against eight (8) members of the organization. The indictment remained sealed pending more undercover negotiations. In October 2005, DEA, ICE and CGIS agents arrested seven (7) of these defendants and seized 157 kilograms of cocaine, 3,000 dosage units of Ecstasy (MDMA), and a Mara Cobray M-12 Machine Gun during an undercover maritime operation on international waters between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Two (2) vehicles were also seized in this operation.

In November of 2005, the Grand Jury issued a superseding indictment accusing eleven (11) individuals of violations of Title 21 U.S. Code, Sections 841, 846, 853, 881, 952, 963 and Title 18 U.S. Code, Sections 2 and 924(c)(1)(A). The defendants are: Aquilino Pimentel, Pedro Pimentel, Tomas Rosario-Pache, Ramon Perez-Mejias, Bienvenido Rivas-Reyes, Jose Cueto, Minely Felix-Rosario, Nelson J. Adorno-Medina, Juan Ramon Diaz-Andino, Aurelio Soriano-Carpio and Eugenio Abreu-Castro. All the defendants have been arrested.

The DEA HIDTA San Juan MOI is a joint federal and commonwealth task force targeting major drug trafficking organizations. DEA leads this initiative and its members include the DEA, Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), and the Puerto Rico Justice Department’s Special Investigations Bureau (NIE).