SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Guillermo Gil, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico; Rogelio Guevara, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Caribbean Field Division, and Major General Manuel Lachapelle, Director, Dominican Republic's National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD) today announced the conclusion of a year long investigation, called Operation Sanctuary, with the arrests of eight (8) individuals in San Juan, Dominican Republic and Orlando. These individuals were part of an international organization engaged in the illicit trafficking of multi-ton quantities of cocaine and the laundering of millions of U.S. dollars, obtained from their drug trafficking activities. The organization's drug trafficking and money laundering activities extended to Venezuela, Dominican Republic, St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, New York and Miami.
The investigation, known as Operation Sanctuary, was initiated by the Dominican Republic's DNCD in August of 2000 and was supported by the Special Operations Division, a joint law enforcement program comprised of attorneys from the Department of Justice's Criminal Division and agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, U.S. Customs Service (USCS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The offices participating in Operation Sanctuary include: New York (DEA, USCS, New York Police Department, and IRS); San Juan (DEA, U.S. Coast Guard, USCS, and IRS); Miami (DEA, USCS, and IRS); West Palm Beach (DEA and IRS); Dominican Republic (DEA); and Venezuela (DEA and Venezuela National Guard).
According to DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson, "Drug traffickers should know that the Caribbean is no longer a sanctuary for their illegal activities."" He added, "Operation Sanctuary not only dismantled criminal drug trafficking organizations with tentacles in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S.; it provided a textbook example of how well today's law enforcement agencies unite internationally to fight drug and money laundering crimes across political and geographic boundaries."
Amongst the targets of the investigation are: WILFREDO ANDUJAR-GUZMAN from the Dominican Republic and the leader of the organization, FRANCISCO ANTONIO IGUARAN-MENGUAL from Venezuela and a source of supply of cocaine for the organization, MANUEL BUENAVENTURA BRITO-TOLENTINO of the Dominican Republic and second in command of the organization, and JOSE LUIS ANDRADES-MALDONADO alias Felix Luis Cabrera-Burriel, of Puerto Rico, the money launderer and coordinator of the drug trafficking activities of the organization in Puerto Rico.
Based on this DNCD investigation, supported by the DEA, IRS, INS, USCS, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Police of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico obtained Federal Grand Jury indictments on May 30, 2001, charging twenty-one (21) individuals with violations to Title 21, U.S. Code: Sections: 846 and 841(a)(1) (conspiracy to possess and possession of narcotics with the intent to distribute); Sections: 963 and 952 (conspiracy to import and importation of controlled substances), and Title 18, United States Code: Section 1956(h) (conspiracy to launder drug trafficking proceeds), Section 1956(a)(1) (laundering of drug proceeds), Section 1957 (monetary transactions to launder drug trafficking proceeds) , and Section 2 (aiding and abetting). The individuals charged in Puerto Rico are: WILFREDO ANDUJAR-GUZMAN, FRANCISCO ANTONIO IGUARAN-MENGUAL, MANUEL BUENAVENTURA BRITO-TOLENTINO, JOSE LUIS ANDRADES-MALDONADO alias Felix Luis Cabrera-Burriel, DAVID AYALA-MUNDO, MOHAMED KHARFAN, IYAD SHEHADED, FRANCISCO TORRES, JULIO VEGA-DAVILA, OSCAR MARTINEZ-HERNANDEZ, IVAN VAZQUEZ-ALOMAR, FELIPE ARTURO GERALDO-RODRIGUEZ, CARLOS J. MAYMI-MAYSONET, JUAN CARLOS GERALDO-RODRIGUEZ, JASON MACHADO-MORALES, CARLOS J. DIAZ-CRUZ, MIGUEL DE LOS SANTOS-AVILA, PAULINO GIL MARTINEZ, PEDRO MARTINEZ, CARLOS EDUARDO GOMEZ-NOYA, and LEURY MENDEZ-MATOS
Significant events during Operation Sanctuary include the seizure of thousands of kilograms of cocaine by the U.S. Coast Guard on international waters in the eastern Caribbean and the arrests of ten (10) members of a Colombian-Lebanese money laundering organization, headed by KHALIL KHARFAN, operating in Colombia, New York, Miami, West Palm Beach and San Juan, PR, and whom were responsible for laundering millions of U.S. Dollars in drug proceeds. Prior to today's arrests, Operation Sanctuary had resulted in the arrests of thirty-five (35) individuals, the seizure of 2,899 kilograms of cocaine and $2,511,285 U.S. Currency. The Puerto Rico National Guard Counterdrug Support Task Force provided logistical and air support to this operation.
The indictment is an accusation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial.