Three Men Indicted in District of Columbia on Federal Charges Involving Drug Trafficking Organization Based in Puerto Rico
Two Also Accused of Taking Part in Murder in Puerto Rico
WASHINGTON – Three alleged members of a drug trafficking organization based in Puerto Rico have been indicted in the District of Columbia, following an investigation into shipments of cocaine from San Juan for distribution in the Washington, D.C. area. Two of the defendants face an additional charge stemming from a murder, related to the drug trafficking, that took place in Puerto Rico.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves and Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division.
Rey Rivera Ruiz, 39, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, the alleged leader, was indicted on May 26, 2022, in a superseding indictment returned by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and one count of continuing criminal enterprise, for his leadership and supervisory role in the drug trafficking organization.
Additionally, Jann Jousten Aponte Rivera, 26, and Michael Gabriel Hernandez Rivera, 20, both of San Juan, Puerto Rico, were indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, one count of continuing criminal enterprise -- causing the intentional death of Shantay Butler, 44 -- and one count of causing the death through the use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense.
If convicted, the defendants face a mandatory-minimum term of 20 years imprisonment and a maximum term of life imprisonment or death. The indictment also includes a forfeiture allegation seeking all proceeds of the alleged crimes. On April 1, 2021, the defendants were originally indicted in a one-count indictment with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. The defendants will be arraigned on the charges on a date to be determined by the Court.
According to the government’s evidence, in the fall of 2019, Rivera Ruiz, who was assisted by Aponte Rivera and Hernandez Rivera, and several other individuals, shipped kilogram quantities of cocaine from San Juan to the Washington, D.C. area, via the U.S. Postal Service. Once the kilograms arrived in the Washington, D.C. area, a local drug trafficker distributed the kilograms in the community.
Additionally, the Puerto Rico drug trafficking organization’s members allegedly traveled from San Juan to the Washington, D.C. area to collect drug proceeds, and then surreptitiously traveled on commercial airliners to return the proceeds to Ruiz Rivera and others.
According to the government’s evidence, during the course of the drug conspiracy, Ruiz Rivera and his members shipped between 50 kilograms and 150 kilograms of cocaine to the local drug trafficking organization. The charged drug trafficking conspiracy began around October 2019, and ended in April of 2021, when Ruiz Rivera, Aponte Rivera, and Hernandez Rivera, and another individual were originally indicted. Ruiz Rivera, Aponte Rivera, and Hernandez Rivera have remained in custody since their April 2021 arrests. Members of the local drug trafficking organization have previously been charged for their role in the drug trafficking scheme.
The murder took place on Oct. 14, 2020. At that time, the local drug trafficker owed several thousands of dollars to the Puerto Rico drug trafficking organization and was ordered to pay for several kilograms of cocaine which did not arrive in the Washington, D.C. area. In October of 2020, the local drug trafficker met Aponte Rivera and Hernandez Rivera in a desolate part of Levittown, Puerto Rico. Ms. Butler was in the passenger seat of the vehicle driven by the local drug trafficker. Both Aponte Rivera and Hernandez Rivera pulled out firearms and opened fired on the local drug trafficker and his vehicle. Ms. Butler was shot and died shortly after the shooting, and the local drug trafficker was shot multiple times, but survived.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Assistance is being provided by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, the Montgomery County, Maryland Police Department, the Frederick County, Maryland Police Department, and the Puerto Rico Police Department’s Homicide Division.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Henek and Anthony Scarpelli, of the Violence Reduction and Trafficking Offenses Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Assistance was provided by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Fletcher.