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Drug Trafficking Organizations

Colombian DTOs dominate wholesale cocaine and SA heroin trafficking into and through Puerto Rico and the USVI; these DTOs figure prominently in most PR/USVI HIDTA investigations. Colombian DTOs rely heavily on other Caribbean-based traffickers, including Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Venezuelan DTOs and criminal groups, to transport drugs from South America into the PR/USVI HIDTA region. For instance, Colombian DTOs often employ Dominican DTOs to smuggle cocaine and SA heroin into the HIDTA region; the Dominican DTOs typically receive a percentage of the drugs as payment for their services. Furthermore, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Caribbean Field Division reports that Colombian DTOs are more frequently relying on Venezuelan traffickers to smuggle cocaine and SA heroin into the HIDTA region on their behalf. Such associations result largely from Colombian DTOs' increasing use of Venezuela as a departure zone for drug shipments.

Drug Trafficking Organizations, Criminal Groups, and Gangs

Drug trafficking organizations are complex organizations with highly defined command-and-control structures that produce, transport, and/or distribute large quantities of one or more illicit drugs.

Criminal groups operating in the United States are numerous and range from small to moderately sized, loosely knit groups that distribute one or more drugs at the retail level and midlevel.

Gangs are defined by the National Alliance of Gang Investigators' Associations as groups or associations of three or more persons with a common identifying sign, symbol, or name, the members of which individually or collectively engage in criminal activity that creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Dominican DTOs are the principal transporters of illicit drugs into and through Puerto Rico and the USVI; they operate extensive transportation networks, often using the Netherlands Antilles, other Dutch territories, and their home island of Hispaniola as staging areas. Dominican DTOs also distribute wholesale, midlevel, and retail quantities of cocaine, SA heroin, and marijuana throughout the HIDTA region. Additionally, Dominican DTOs often work closely with Puerto Rican DTOs and sometimes include members from Puerto Rican DTOs in their organizations.

Puerto Rican DTOs are the primary retail drug distributors in Puerto Rico; they also coordinate drug shipments on behalf of Colombian DTOs from the commonwealth to the CONUS and other areas, such as Africa, Canada, and Europe. Puerto Rican DTOs also maintain extended distribution cells in the CONUS that sell drugs at the retail level in Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

Prison gangs are active throughout Puerto Rico.1 Ñeta, also known as Asociación Ñeta, is the largest and most violent gang in Puerto Rico. The group was initially formed in the Puerto Rico prison system to address prisoner rights issues but quickly progressed to criminal activity. Ñeta has approximately 12,000 members, 7,000 of whom reside in correctional facilities in Puerto Rico. Ñeta chapters in Puerto Rico exist exclusively inside prisons; once members are released from prison, they are no longer considered to be part of the gang. However, Ñeta has support groups outside the prison system. Ñeta members are commonly involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, murder, and public corruption in Puerto Rico. Other prison gangs, such as G-25 (Los Huevos and Bacalao), G-27, and G-31 (Los Tiburones), also operate in Puerto Rico; these gangs are primarily rivals of Ñeta. Street gangs reportedly do not operate in the HIDTA region.

End Note

1. There are 28 state penal institutions in the Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands (PR/USVI) High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), 27 in Puerto Rico and one in the USVI; the sole federal institution is also located in Puerto Rico.

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