20 Members of a Violent Gang Charged with Drug Trafficking and Firearms Violations in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On March 3, 2022, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging 20 violent gang members from the municipality of Vega Alta with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, as well as firearms violations, announced W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB), Bayamón Strike Force, led the investigation, with assistance from the United States Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“Today’s arrests reflect the unwavering commitment of the U.S. Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those who fuel violence in our streets through their illegal drug trafficking activities” said W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
The indictment alleges that from 2018, until the date of the return of the indictment, the drug trafficking organization distributed cocaine base (commonly known as “crack”), heroin, cocaine, marihuana, Oxycodone (Percocet), and Alprazolam (Xanax) within 1,000 feet of Las Violetas and El Batey Public Housing Projects, and the Sabana Hoyos Ward, and also within 1,000 feet of a real property comprising a public or private school and/or playground. The object of the conspiracy was the large-scale distribution of controlled substances in Vega Alta for significant financial gain and profit.
The 20 defendants acted in different roles to further the goals of their organization, including as leaders, enforcers, runners, sellers, lookouts and facilitators. Eight of the defendants are facing one charge of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. All the defendants are facing a narcotics forfeiture allegation of $6,451,375.
As part of the conspiracy, the drug trafficking organization would import wholesale quantities of narcotics from the Dominican Republic, and other places, into Puerto Rico, to distribute in street- quantity amounts at their drug distribution points. The defendants and their co-conspirators established a drug distribution point that would move within different areas inside the public housing projects to avoid police detection. Some of the co-conspirators used different types of barriers and diversionary devices to avoid law enforcement detection, including fences, altered public housing amenities, dogs, and barbed wire.
Members of the organization would steal cars and use them to further their drug trafficking activities. Some members of the organization belonged to a musical group called “Los Piratas.” They would draw graffiti resembling this group near the drug points that belonged to the organization.
The members of the gang used force, violence, and intimidation to maintain control of the areas in which they operated. They often abducted and assaulted rival drug traffickers, as well as members of their own drug trafficking organization, to intimidate and maintain control of the drug trafficking operation. Some of the members of this organization marked themselves with a tattoo with the letters LSR, which stands for the phrase “Lealtad Sin Rango” (Loyalty with no rank). This tattoo symbolized loyalty among the members of the organization.
The defendants charged are:
Marcos Pagán-Rodríguez, a.k.a. “Papin”
Miguel Santana-Avilés, a.k.a. “Macho/Machito”
John Morales-Rodríguez, a.k.a. “Gordo”
Michael Nieves-Lacend, a.k.a. “Pinto”
Christian Sifonte-Ramos, a.k.a. “Peluche”
Joseph Israel-Ramos, a.k.a. “Mena”
Alex Jomar Negrón-García
Said David Adorno-Martínez, a.k.a. “Saiid”
William Rodríguez-Reyes, a.k.a. “Willy”
Juan Lozada-González, a.k.a. “Picu”
Luis Alfonso-Cabrera, a.k.a. “Javi”
José Rosado-Vega, a.k.a. “Manos Mongas”
José Negrón-Rodríguez, a.k.a. “Pepo”
Josué Rosado-Rivera, a.k.a. “Cano/Patineta”
Ismael Figueroa-Maldonado, a.k.a. “Capo”
Gabriel Aguayo-Santana, a.k.a. “Gaby”
Mizrain López-Feliciano, a.k.a. “Mizra/Flaco”
Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Gang Section Alberto López-Rocafort, Deputy Chief of the Gang Section, AUSA Tereza Zapata-Valladares, AUSA Pedro Casablanca, and Special AUSA Cristina Caraballo are in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted on the drug charges, the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and up to life in prison. If convicted of both the drug and firearms charges, the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, and up to life in prison.
This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.