Alexis Candelario-Santana, 41, faces life in prison following his conviction of murdering eight people and an unborn child and attempting to murder 19 others during a mass shooting at a Puerto Rico pub in 2009, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.
On March 8, 2013, Candelari-Santana was convicted of 28 counts of violent crime in aid of racketeering activity, one count of racketeering conspiracy, nine counts of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and one count of possession of a firearm with a prior conviction. These offenses occurred on Oct. 17, 2009, in what became known as the “La Tombola Massacre.”
The counts of conviction on capital murder charges necessitated a separate penalty phase of the trial. That phase began on Monday, March 15, 2003. On Saturday, March 23, 2013, the jury announced it was unable to reach a unanimous sentencing verdict. As a result, a sentence of life in prison will be imposed. There is no parole in the federal system.
According to the evidence presented at trial, from approximately 1993 through 2003, Candelario-Santana was the leader of the drug trafficking organization that operated principally in Sabana Seca, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. The organization purchased its drugs in bulk, processed and packaged the drugs and sold them at Sabana Seca through numerous sellers, runners and enforcers under Candelario-Santana’s control. The organization sold crack, cocaine, heroin and marijuana, and members of the organization routinely possessed firearms in order to protect the drug points. In addition, the evidence introduced at trial established that, between 1995 and 2001, Mr. Candelario-Santana either personally killed, or ordered others to kill, 13 individuals whom he viewed as threats to his drug trafficking organization or as being disloyal members of his drug trafficking organization.
In approximately 2002, Candelario-Santana was arrested and charged in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico with numerous murders. Sometime after Candelario-Santana’s arrest, co-defendant Carmelo Rondón-Feliciano took charge of the organization. Candelario-Santana ran the drug trafficking organization from prison until approximately 2006, when he was marginalized by co-conspirator Wilfredo Semprit-Santana and Rondón-Feliciano. According to evidence presented at trial, Candelario-Santana was infuriated at being removed from power within the drug trafficking organization.
On Sept. 25, 2006, Rondón-Feliciano was arrested and charged in the District of Puerto Rico with federal drug trafficking crimes. These charges stemmed, in part, from Rondón-Feliciano’s distribution of narcotics in Sabana Seca. After Rondón-Feliciano’s arrest, co-conspirator Semprit-Santana took charge of the organization.
In February 2009, Candelario-Santana was released from prison.
On Oct. 17, 2009, Semprit-Santana held the grand opening of a pub he rented called La Tómbola, located in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. The event was heavily attended, with people congregating inside and outside the establishment. At approximately 11:50 p.m., Candelario-Santana, co-defendant David Oquendo-Rivas, and others, drove to La Tómbola. When they arrived, they immediately opened fire on the patrons located outside. Candelario-Santana and Oquendo-Rivas entered La Tómbola and opened fire on the people inside. Nine people and an 8-month unborn child were killed as a result of the gunfire, and 19 other victims were shot and injured. The individuals killed included Candelario-Santana’s godson, Rondón-Feliciano’s stepson and Candelario-Santana’s cousin. The evidence introduced at trial demonstrated that 335 expended shell-casings were recovered from the La Tombola crime scene. The ballistics evidence established that eight .9 mm semi-automatic pistols, three 40 caliber semi-automatic pistols, two 45 caliber semi-automatic pistols, three AK-47-type assault rifles and one AR-15-type assault rifle, were used at the La Tombola crime scene.
Candelario Santana will be formally sentenced on June 21, 2013.
The case was investigated by FBI and the Puerto Rico Police Department, with the collaboration of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Instituto de Ciencias Forenses; and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice. The case is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney María Dominguez-Victoriano and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcela Mateo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Trial Attorney Bruce R. Hegyi of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Unit.