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139 Individuals Indicted for Drug Trafficking in the Municipality of Caguas

AUG 08 (SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) – On July 29, 2013, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned three separate indictments against 139 defendants charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and distribution of controlled substances, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.  The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) collaborated during the investigations. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) also collaborated during the arrests.

The first indictment charges 79 individuals for conspiracy to knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute cocaine base (crack), heroin, cocaine, marihuana, Oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet) and Alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax), all within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising the Turabo Heights Public Housing Project, a housing facility owned by a public housing authority, and other areas nearby and within the Municipality of Caguas, Puerto Rico.  
According to the indictment, beginning in 2005, as part of the manner and means of the conspiracy, the defendants would use electricity boxes known as “dangers” to stash packages or bundles of decked narcotics which were to be distributed to the sellers in a controlled manner. Sellers were not allowed to get more bundles or packages before tallying with the owner or his runner for the packages or bundles received.  Tallies would be written in notebooks or sheets of paper.

It was further a part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that during the span of the conspiracy, the marihuana drug points were identified by the colors blue (“Las Azules”) and yellow (“Las Amarillas”).  Leaders would supply firearms to other drug trafficking organization members for protection of the narcotics and their proceeds. Lookouts would be posted with two way radios (walkie-talkies) in specific areas of the Turabo Heights Public Housing Project in order to alert other organization members of police presence or the presence of rival gangs.

During the span of the conspiracy, in order to be able to have a drug point at Turabo Heights, “rent” would be paid to the leaders of the drug trafficking organization and their family members.  It was a part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that control of the drug points at Turabo Heights was, obtained and maintained by the use of force, violence, and intimidation which operated twenty-four (24) hours a day in 3 shifts per day, including a “midnight marihuana” shift. Facilitators would act as intermediaries in drug sale transactions when clients did not want to go into the housing project.

According to the indictment, the 79 co-conspirators had many roles in order to further the goals of the conspiracy.  These were: two leaders; seven drug point owners (including the two leaders); four suppliers; three enforcers; 14 runners; 31 sellers; and 19 facilitators.  Nine defendants are facing one charge of conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  All defendants are facing a forfeiture allegation of forty-five million dollars.

The second indictment charges 31 individuals for conspiracy to knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute cocaine, heroin, crack, marihuana, Percocet, and Xanax, within one thousand (1,000) feet of the real property comprising housing facilities owned by a public housing authority, to wit: the Brisas del Turabo Public Housing Project in the municipality of Caguas, PR. The object of the conspiracy was to distribute controlled substances for significant financial gain and profit. 

The defendants and their co-conspirators would act in different roles in order to further the goals of the conspiracy, to wit: leaders who directed and supervised enforcers, suppliers, runners, sellers, drug processors, lookouts, and facilitators. Twenty defendants are facing one charge of conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  All defendants are facing a forfeiture allegation of ten million dollars.

The third indictment charges 29 individuals for conspiracy to knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute cocaine, heroin, marihuana, crack, Percocet, and Xanax, within one thousand (1,000) feet of the real property comprising housing facilities owned by a public housing authority, to wit: the Gautier Benitez Public Housing Project in the municipality of Caguas, PR. The object of the conspiracy was to distribute controlled substances for significant financial gain and profit.

It was further part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that the drug point would move through different locations within the Gautier Benitez Public Housing Project in order to avoid detection by law enforcement.  The defendants and their co-conspirators would act in different roles in order to further the goals of the conspiracy, to wit: leaders who directed and supervised enforcers, runners, sellers, drug processors, lookouts, and facilitators. Seventeen defendants are facing one charge of conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  All defendants are facing a forfeiture allegation of seventeen million dollars.

“Violent drug trafficking gangs should take note, and know that we are determined to break their grip on communities, while ensuring that they face justice for their crimes,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “Federal and local law enforcement agencies remain committed to using every tool available to attack these criminal organizations, and to reduce gang violence and to bring narcotics and firearms violators to justice.”

Special Agent in Charge of the DEA in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean stated: “Reducing violent crime in our community requires a commitment by federal and local law enforcement to combat illegal drug trade and the violence associated with it. This joint operation, which has been conducted for almost three years by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigations and Puerto Rico Police Department, represents that type of commitment of resources. We believe that today’s arrests will significantly reduce violence in Caguas by dismantling these notorious drug operations from top to bottom. We are hopeful that this will have a lasting community impact by reducing the level of crime in Puerto Rico.”

“The FBI's message is clear and unequivocal, we will work together with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to assign all necessary resources to identify, locate, and arrest violent crimes offenders. They will face our justice system.  They will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Carlos Cases, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Puerto Rico.

Assistant US Attorneys Alberto López-Rocafort and Teresa Zapata and Special Assistant US Attorney Victor Acevedo are in charge of the prosecution of the cases.  If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in prison.  Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt.  Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States, or any other competent jurisdiction, those organizations and principal members of organizations, involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States; and to recommend and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets.

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