Joint Venture II
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - H.S. Garcia, United States Attorney, District of Puerto Rico, Jerome M. Harris Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Caribbean Division, Roberto Sanchez, Secretary, Puerto Rico Department of Justice (PRDJ), Jose Lozada, Director, PRDJ Special Investigations Bureau (SIB) and Pedro Toledo, Superintendent, Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) announced today the arrest of 14 members of a drug trafficking organization operating in the Alejandrino Public Housing Project located in San Juan, PR.
On July 6, 2005, a Federal Grand Jury indicted (18) members of this drug trafficking organization on charges of possession with the intent to distribute, distribution and conspiracy to distribute in excess of (5) grams of cocaine base, crack cocaine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana within 1,000 feet of a housing facility owned by public housing authority or of a public elementary school, the Concha Melendez Public Elementary School, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841 (a) (1), 841 (b) (1) (b), 846 and 860. The Grand Jury also charged four (4) members of the organization with conspiracy to possess, carrying or using a deadly or dangerous weapon during and in relation to and in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of Title 18, United States Code, 924 (o) . The Grand Jury also charged three (3) members of the organization with carrying, possessing or using a firearm (a 9 mm handgun, a nickel plated handgun and an AK-47 rifle) during the commission and in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense in violation of Title 18, United States Code, 924 (c) (i).
The following defendants were indicted by the Grand Jury:
The indictment alleges that, beginning on or about February 2003, the defendants and their co-conspirators operated a “floating” drug point within the Alejandrino Public Housing Project in that it would move from Buildings Five, Six, Twelve, Thirteen and the Ana Cleta Mini Market, amongst other locations within the Alejandrino Public Housing Project. The indictment also alleges that the defendants and co-conspirators used deadly weapons in the form of handguns and assault rifles to further the goals of the conspiracy. The indictment further alleges that the defendants also recruited minors to act as sellers of controlled substances. These two (2) minors were arrested by the PRPD and charged with violations of the Commonwealth Controlled Substances Law. They will be prosecuted by the Commonwealth District Attorney’s Office of the PRDJ.
All the defendants have been charged with violations of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841 (a) (1), 841 (b) (1) (b), 846 and 860. Four defendants, Maldonado-Chavez, Rivera-Picart, Astacio-Encarnacion, and Collazo-Gonzalez are also being charged with violations of Title 18, United States Code, 924 (o). Three defendants, Maldonado-Chavez, Rivera-Picart and Astacio-Encarnacion, are also being charged with violations of Title 18, United States Code, 924 (c) (i). The penalties for the drug trafficking offenses charged in the indictment carry a term of imprisonment of not less that 5 years to a maximum of 40 years and fines of up to $2,000.000.00. Each firearm charge carries a mandatory consecutive 5 year sentence, in addition to the drug related penalties.
These charges are the result of an investigation, which was initiated on April 2004, by the DEA’s Caribbean Mobile Enforcement Team (MET) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico. This DEA Caribbean MET deployment, named ‘Operation Joint Venture II,’ targeted the drug trafficking activities of Larry Maldonado-Chavez and his associates in the Alejandrino Public Housing Project in San Juan, PR. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Julie Mosely.
The MET program was developed by the DEA in 1995 to help state and local police departments with limited resources deal with violent drug trafficking organizations in their communities. In coordination with the local authorities the MET will deploy to communities to jointly target criminal organizations. For more information on the MET and other DEA programs visit the DEA website at www.dea.gov.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial and the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.