24 Individuals Indicted for Conspiracy to Possess With Intent to Distribute and Distribution of Cocaine
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a seven-count indictment charging 20 men and four women with trafficking cocaine in the District of Puerto Rico, beginning in 2017. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) oversees the investigation, with the collaboration of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB), Ponce Municipal Police, and the Puerto Rico Department of Treasury. The United States Marshals Service also collaborated during the arrests.
According to the charging document, from 2017 through the date of the return of the indictment, 24 individuals conspired to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The defendants are:
Arthur W. Rodríguez-Sánchez, a.k.a. “Drizmali/Chino/Quemao/Templo/Chal/Chal F”
Emmanuel Rodríguez-Rodríguez, a.k.a. “Jibaro”
Smill E. Gómez- De La Cruz, a.k.a. “Pampara/Pompera/Pampera/Carlos/Carlitos”
Ruben E. Vidal-Flores
Juan C. Cuevas-Feliz
Yan C. García-Pola
Victor X. Zorrilla-Mejías
Wilfredo R. Vázquez-López, a.k.a. “W/Www”
José A. Aquino-Perales
Alexis Abreu-Cordero, a.k.a. “El Viejo/Alexis/Alexis Ozuna-Cordero”
Peter J. Reyes-Suárez
Ángel L. Hernández-Díaz, a.k.a. “Coly/Coli/Coli El Fuerte”
Ángel L. Santiago-Rivera
Kenneth A. Cruz-Fontánez
José M. Hidalgo-Duarte
Jesús H. Vega-Rivera, a.k.a. “Gipeta/Jipeta/Millonario 27”
Kailyn N. Rivera-Torres
Also, 21 defendants are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine aboard a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and conspiracy to import cocaine from the countries of Colombia, Venezuela, and the British Virgin Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands, into Puerto Rico.
The defendants made multiple trips between Puerto Rico and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands to transport narcotics. During their smuggling ventures, the defendants used two or three vessels in order to distract law enforcement officers. In addition, they recruited trusted females that could pose as decoys in the vessels to district law enforcement. They also recruited defendant José A. Aquino-Perales, a PRPB FURA police officer that acted as a lookout in Puerto Rico for the drug trafficking organization.
“Today’s arrests dismantle an organization that coordinated not only the international smuggling of drugs, but also the movement of drug proceeds, which is essential to the success of these illegal activities,” said U.S. Attorney Muldrow. “We will continue maximizing our multi-agency efforts and will combine resources to investigate and prosecute those who smuggle drugs into Puerto Rico.”
In addition to the drug trafficking charges, four defendants are charged with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, which involved the proceeds of dealing in controlled substances.
The defendants are facing a forfeiture allegation of the following property:
- A lot of land located at Bo. Calabazas, in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico
- A two-level house located at Urbanization Vista de Lago Campo, in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico
- Property located in Urbanization Villa Del Rey, Section IV, Lot 12, 4-G, located in Caguas, Puerto Rico
- Property located at Sector Coco Barrio Jueyes, in Salinas, Puerto Rico
- Six vessels
If convicted, the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum sentence of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) and Chief of the Transnational Organized Crime Section Max J. Pérez-Bouret; Deputy Chief of the Transnational Organized Crime Section, AUSA María L. Montañez-Concepción; and AUSA Jorge L. Matos are in charge of the prosecution of the case.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.