The Criminal Division is in charge of prosecuting Federal criminal cases in the District of Puerto Rico. It is composed of approximately 40 prosecutors, most of whom are Assistant U.S. Attorneys, but also a group of Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are on detail in our office. These prosecutors are attorneys from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and various Federal law enforcement agencies.
The Criminal Division is divided into four Units, that largest of which is the Narcotics Unit. This unit deals with offenses relating to major domestic and international drug trafficking organizations. The Violent Crimes unit prosecutes offenses related to the use of violence, such as carjackings, kidnappings and Federal firearm-related offenses. The White Collar and General Crimes Unit prosecutes mostly economic or “white collar” offenses, health care fraud, in addition to handling immigration offenses and offenses involving the exploitation of children. The Major Crimes Unit is composed of a group of experienced attorneys who prosecute the most serious, complex and noteworthy of criminal cases handled in our district.
The mission of the Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit (MLAF) is the prosecution of money laundering offenses and the forfeiture of criminal proceeds and property involved or used in the commission of criminal offenses. In accomplishing its mission, the Unit works closely with AUSAs and support staff from the Criminal Division, as forfeiture and money laundering are across-the-board issues. Specifically, the MLAF Unit handles all civil forfeiture complaints and money laundering indictments, as well as working with Criminal Division AUSAs as co-counsel in matters of criminal forfeiture and money laundering charged with the corresponding Specified Unlawful Activity.
The central mission of the Narcotics/ RICO unit is to investigate and prosecute major organizations, including international narcotics traffickers, and urban street gangs responsible for violent crimes. Most of the international and island level investigations are Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force cases involving multiple law enforcement agencies, especially the DEA, ATF, FBI, HSI and IRS. These investigations often are related to cases in other US jurisdictions and foreign countries so that coordination between prosecutors and agencies is vital.
The unit makes frequent use of Title III wiretaps and other sophisticated investigative techniques to penetrate organizations and gather evidence. It also uses extradition powers to prosecute foreign defendants who import illegal drugs into the United States.
The unit also targets major money laundering operations, especially ones that transmit drug proceeds overseas. By working cases from their inception with the Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit, the district strives to ensure that traffickers and their families never benefit financially from their crimes. Public corruption is not unusual in Puerto Rico, and is typically fueled by the proceeds of narcotics trafficking. The unit believes that federal investigation is especially appropriate in those cases where public officials have been corrupted by drug trafficking.
The RICO prosecutors focus on enterprises that traffic in narcotics and commit violent crimes. In these cases, the unit works closely with Commonwealth Police as well as federal agencies.
The USAO’s Violent Crimes/RICO Unit is comprised of a Unit Chief (Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney), six (6) Assistant U.S. Attorneys and seven (7) Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys. It is charged with the mission of investigating and prosecuting Violent Crimes, Federal Firearms violations, Capital cases (Death Penalty eligible), Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO). Additionally, the USAO’s Violent Crimes/RICO Unit implements and oversees the Violence and Illegal Firearms’ Reduction Initiative. Its prosecutors routinely work with various Federal Law Enforcement agents from the FBI, ATF, DEA, HSI/ICE, and PRPD/Task Forces. Some of the commonly prosecuted offenses by the Violent Crimes/RICO Unit are: Carjacking, Bank Robbery, Hobbs Act, RICO Conspiracy and cases where death results during the commission of these and other violent crimes.
Federal criminal violations prosecuted by the White Collar and General Crimes Unit include some of the top prosecution priorities of the Department of Justice, such as sexual exploitation of children, identity fraud and immigration violations. The Section also handles prosecutions involving the civil rights statutes, environmental crimes, computer security and hacking issues. The section also handles financial based prosecutions including mortgage fraud, corporate fraud, securities fraud, health care fraud, and public corruption (financial).
The collective experience of the White Collar and General Crimes prosecutors is varied and easily translated into the complexities of different investigations that are within the responsibility of the unit. Indeed, most federal investigative agencies will rely upon the Major Crimes Section as they investigate and present for prosecution the many different crimes included in the federal criminal code.