Agents escort defendant Christian Soto-Mujica to the Federal Building
SAC Javier Peña and USPIS Supervisor Delany De Leon answer questions from the media
SAN JUAN, PR. – On September 23, 2011, a federal grand jury indicted 28 individuals as a result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the United States Postal Inspection Service, with the collaboration of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez announced today. The defendants are charged in a three-count indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute one thousand kilograms or more of marijuana in the districts of Puerto Rico, California, Florida and Mexico, using the United States Postal Service (USPS).
According to the indictment, the object of the conspiracy was to distribute large amounts of marijuana throughout Puerto Rico for significant financial gain. The defendants had many roles in the organization in order to further the goals of the conspiracy. The leaders and suppliers of the conspiracy were: Tony Godines Lupian; Luis Silverio-Sosa, aka “Piru;” Alfonso Murillo-Ríos, aka “Poncho;” Jesús A. Corchado-Diaz, aka “Chuy;” Osvaldo Rafael Torres-Ayala, aka “Pablo;” Alex J. Ramos-Mediavilla, aka “Gordo;” Christian Soto-Mujica, aka “Chemito;” and Héctor Morales-Sánchez, aka “Patrón.” The leaders and suppliers were based in two locations, California and Puerto Rico. The California suppliers would purchase marijuana, originally from Mexico, in bulk so that it could be packaged and sent to Puerto Rico. The suppliers based in Puerto Rico would coordinate delivery of the boxes containing the marijuana, oversee the delivery to various distributors, pay the couriers, and retrieve the proceeds.
The couriers and distributors would package, pick up and deliver the marijuana-laden boxes, and would ultimately distribute the drug throughout various locations in Puerto Rico. The facilitators were the co-conspirators who would provide financial guidance and assistance on how to launder the controlled substance proceeds and would also purchase airline tickets for the couriers on behalf of the organization.
|Agents escort a defendant for processing in San Juan, PR.||SAC Javier Peña addresses the media during the press conference at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Hato Rey, PR.|
The defendants mailed the packaged marijuana to Puerto Rico from U.S. Post Offices in California. They utilized fictitious names as the addressees on the marijuana laden boxes, and on occasion, delivered the packages to abandoned properties and properties wherein the residents were away on vacation, or to private post office boxes located within commercial establishments. The co-conspirators used USPS’ online service, text messaging and USPS customer service to verify location and security of their marijuana laden boxes while en route from California to Puerto Rico.
The indictment further alleges that defendants possessed and carried firearms in order to further their drug trafficking activities and they discussed the potential killing of individuals they believed to have stolen a marijuana-laden box.
“Today, federal authorities dismantled a drug trafficking organization from its root: starting in Mexico, where the marijuana was bought then transported across the Mexico-California border, and subsequently distributed to Puerto Rico,” said US Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “We will continue prosecuting all those who are involved in drug trafficking and will not rest until we restore the quality of life to the people of Puerto Rico.”
“This drug trafficking organization brazenly thought they could use the U.S. Postal Service to traffic marijuana from California to Puerto Rico,” said Javier Peña, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Caribbean Division. “Today DEA, with the collaborative effort of the United States Postal Inspection Service, dismantled this drug trafficking organization by arresting those who supplied the marijuana from Mexico, the organization leaders in California, the money couriers, the distributors and the tiradores who were on the streets of Puerto Rico. We have seized their money, properties, and cars but most significantly, we have broken their pipeline of drug trafficking. Let this be a strong message to those drug traffickers that think they can go unnoticed, DEA is everywhere and we will not stop until they are behind bars.”
“The United States Postal Service will not be used by Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO's) to facilitate the illegal transportation of narcotics and other dangerous substances. United States Postal Inspectors partnered with the DEA to investigate and bring to justice those who misused our nation’s mail system to further their illicit scheme,” said Delany De León, Resident Inspector in Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service. “Postal Inspectors are always vigilant and are here to support and protect the United States Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure and customers; enforce the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and ensure public trust in the mail. By dismantling this DTO, thus disrupting a major supplier of marijuana to Puerto Rico, we are sending a clear message to DTO members that the US Mail will not be misused.”
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney José Capó-Iriarte, Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Division. If convicted, the defendants face a minimum of ten years’ and a maximum of life imprisonment, with fines of up to $8 million. Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.