Operation Caribbean Highway Indictments: Conspiracy to Import Cocaine— $67 Million Forfeiture Allegation
May 10 (San Juan, PR) – A two-count indictment was unsealed this morning in Puerto Rico federal court charging Dante Tagiaventi, aka “El Viejo,” aka “Pepe,” aka “El Italiana,” aka “Spaghetti;” Héctor Miranda-Rojas, aka “Pito Shell;” René Ramos-Rivera, aka “Robin,” “La R,” “Antídoto;” Francis Román Tavares, aka “El Señor de los Caballos,” “La F;” James Fonseca Rivera, aka “Jimmy;” and Samuel Ortiz-Ojeda, aka “El Maestro” with conspiracy to import narcotics into the Customs Territory of the United States and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, announced today United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. The defendants were arrested by agents of the DEA and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) earlier this week in Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
“The joint effort of the DEA, the Puerto Rico Police Department and the US Attorney’s Office, has led to the arrest of these major drug traffickers,” stated Pedro Janer, DEA Caribbean Division Acting Special Agent in Charge. “This should send a clear message to all drug traffickers that they cannot hide here; we will find them.”
According to the indictment, beginning on or about 2006 until 2011, the defendants imported large quantities of cocaine from Antigua, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guatemala and Honduras into Puerto Rico for distribution and further transshipment, all for significant financial gain and profit. It was part of the conspiracy that the defendants and co-conspirators would plan and arrange for the transportation of large shipments of cocaine and U.S. currency to and from South America through the Leeward Islands and into Puerto Rico utilizing motor vessels and aircraft.
Defendants would use veiled and coded references in their conversations to describe their narcotics transportation and distribution scheme; and they shared information about the illegal activities for the purpose of avoiding detection and ensuring the success of their criminal organization. Like all drug trafficking organizations, the defendants performed different functions in furtherance of the organization’s drug trafficking activities at various times during the conspiracy.
Upon conviction of the controlled substance offense alleged in Counts One or Two of the indictment, the defendants, face forfeiture of $67 million, pursuant to Title 21, United States Code, Section 853.
“We have dismantled a significant drug ring that generated millions trafficking cocaine, from international sources of supply to Puerto Rico,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We commend the dedication and strong sense of partnership of the PRPD and DEA who worked together to bring charges against these defendants.”
This case is being prosecuted by the Narcotics Unit Deputy Chief, Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Henwood and AUSA Andrew Massucco. Penalties for the narcotics offenses alleged in the indictment range from ten (10) years to life imprisonment, and fines of up $8,000,000.00. Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.