30 Arrested in Joint Operation in Puerto Rico
MAY 08 - SAN JUAN, P.R. – On May 5 , 2009, a federal Grand Jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a seven-count indictment, charging 55 defendants with federal drug trafficking and firearms offenses. This morning, strike force agents arrested 30 members of the drug trafficking organization, which had been established since 2006 at the Villa Margarita Ward and Los Claveles Housing Project. The arrest warrants were executed by more than 250 federal and commonwealth agents in an enforcement operation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The investigation was part of the joint efforts of the Carolina Strike Force Team led by Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, and coordinated by SAUSA Guillermo Gil-Bonar; working in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration, led by Special Agent in Charge, Javier Peña; and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice and its Secretary of Justice, Antonio Sagardía.
“Today DEA and the Carolina Strike Force broke this family cartel led by Joel Rivera-Alejandro, his two brothers and their mother, that have been terrorizing this community and illegally seized the community park for their illegal drug business” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Peña during the news conference. “As a result of our efforts, PRPD have pledged to this community that they will make sure that drug traffickers never take control of this park again. They can count on DEA’s support. Now the children of this community can feel free to play again”
“Since the first Strike Force large operatives began in 2006, we have been able to arrest and prosecute a total of 999 defendants, in order to clean up the communities in Puerto Rico,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez during a press conference today. “The hard work and efforts of state and federal law enforcement agencies in the Carolina Strike Force Unit prove that, once again, through collaboration we can and will eliminate all active and violent drug trafficking organizations in Puerto Rico ”.
The indictment charges that since the year 2006, t he members of the drug trafficking organization knowingly and intentionally possessed with intent to distribute controlled substances, to wit: in excess of fifty (50) grams of “crack”; and/or in excess of one (1) kilogram of heroin; and/or in excess of five (5) kilograms of cocaine, and/or detectable amounts of marijuana; and/or detectable amounts of Oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet); and Alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax), within one thousand (1,000) feet of a playground in Los Claveles Housing Project, and in and around the Villa Margarita Ward, both located in the Municipality of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. All in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), 846, and 860. The indictment further alleges that some of the defendants conspired with each other and others, in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, to unlawfully possess firearms, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 924(o). The indictment also contains narcotics forfeiture allegations, pursuant to Title 21, United States Code, Section 853.
The indictment alleges that defendant Joel Rivera-Alejandro a/k/a “J” was the principal leader of the conspiracy, and he controlled, together with his two brothers and their mother, as well as eight (8) other co-defendants that also acted as supervisors, the drug distribution points located at Villa Margarita Ward and Los Claveles Housing Project and other areas in the Municipality of Trujillo Alto.
It was part of the manner and means of this organization, that its leader, Joel Rivera Alejandro aka “J” would order others to barbwire or lock or weld the gate giving access to the basketball court and playground in Villa Margarita Ward in order to protect himself, his drug distribution business and in order to maintain control of his drug trafficking activities. The leader and his supervisors of the drug trafficking organization would oversee a group of co-defendants managing the drug distribution activities at the drug points under their control. They would also divide amongst themselves and their subordinates the proceeds of the drug trafficking sales. They would further tally up the drug proceeds against the proceeds made out of the drug sales in an area, among others, known as “El Pentágono” in and around the leader’s residence. Some of the co-conspirators would routinely possess, carry, brandish and use firearms to protect themselves and the drug trafficking organization. Some of the co-conspirators would use violence, force and intimidation in order to gain or maintain control of the drug trafficking operations. The co-conspirators operated in different roles, in order to further the goals of the conspiracy.
Penalties for the narcotics offenses alleged in the indictment range from ten (10) years to two terms of life imprisonment, and fines of up to eight million dollars ($8,000,000.00). The case is being prosecuted by Carolina Strike Force Assistant U.S. Attorney Dina Avila Jiménez and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mariana Bauzá Almonte under the coordination of Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Guillermo Gil-Bonar.
Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.