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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Three Men Convicted in Puerto Rico for Roles in Providing Armed Security for Drug Transactions

WASHINGTON – Three men, including a former officer with the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections, were convicted by a federal jury in San Juan, Puerto Rico, yesterday for their roles in providing security for drug transactions, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rosa E. Rodriguez-Velez of the District of Puerto Rico and Special Agent in Charge Joseph S. Campbell of the FBI’s San Juan Field Office.

Wendell Rivera Ruperto, 37, was convicted of five counts of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, five counts of attempting to possess with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and five counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug transaction.

Bernis Gonzalez Miranda, 27, a former Puerto Rico Department of Corrections officer, was convicted of three counts of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, three counts of attempting to possess with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and three counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug transaction. 

Jose M. Nieves-Velez, 39, was convicted of one count each of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, attempting to possess with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug transaction.

Rivera Ruperto, Gonzalez Miranda and Nieves-Velez were charged in a superseding indictment returned on Oct. 28, 2010, along with 88 law enforcement officers in Puerto Rico and 42 other individuals, as part of the FBI undercover operation known as Guard Shack.

According to the evidence presented in court, Rivera Ruperto provided security for what he believed were illegal cocaine deals on five separate occasions (April 14, April 27, June 9, June 25, and Sept. 16, 2010); Gonzalez Miranda on three separate occasions (June 15, July 2, and July 7, 2010); and Nieves-Velez on one occasion (July 7, 2010).  In fact, the purported drug transactions were part of the undercover FBI operation.  According to information presented at trial, the three men acted as security guards for what they believed were multi-kilogram cocaine deals by frisking the buyer, providing armed protection for the deal and escorting the buyer in and out of the transaction.  Information presented at trial also showed that Rivera Ruperto and Gonzalez Miranda recruited other individuals, including law enforcement officers, to participate in the transactions.

One of those officers, Jose Bermudez Quinones, a Puerto Rico Department of Corrections officer recruited by Gonzalez Miranda, pleaded guilty on Feb. 2, 2012, to attempting to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 15, 2012. 

In return for the security they provided, Rivera Ruperto, Gonzalez Miranda and Nieves-Velez received cash payments of $2,000 for each transaction, and in one instance, Rivera Ruperto received $3,000.

U.S. District Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez scheduled sentencing for Aug. 10, 2012.  At sentencing, Rivera Ruperto faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 115 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison; Gonzalez Miranda faces a mandatory minimum of 65 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison; and Nieves-Velez faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Kevin Driscoll and Monique Abrishami of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.  The case was investigated by the FBI.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also provided assistance in this case.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico also participated in the investigation and prosecution of this case.

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