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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Puerto Rico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 12, 2019

35 Individuals Charged With Drug Trafficking In Puerto Rico Project Safe Neighborhoods Enforcement Effort

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On February 5, 2019, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment against 35 defendants charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and distribution of controlled substances, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), Fajardo and Humacao Strike Forces, are in charge of the investigation. This case is part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative.

The indictment alleges that beginning in or about the year 2011, the organization distributed crack, heroin, cocaine, marihuana, Oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet) and Alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax), all within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising the Dr. Pedro J. Palou and  Los Jardines de Oriente (also known as Los Condos) Public Housing Projects and other areas, and within 1,000 feet of the Rufino Vigo Elementary School located in the Municipality of Humacao, Puerto Rico, all for financial gain and profit. The object of the conspiracy was the large-scale distribution of controlled substances in Humacao and San Juan for significant financial gain and profit.

The 35 defendants acted in different roles in order to further the goals of their organization, to wit: leaders, drug point owners, runners, enforcers, sellers, and lookouts/facilitators. Twenty-seven defendants are facing one charge of conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

As part of the conspiracy, armed conspirators provided security to the drug point. If the rules of the drug trafficking organization were violated, the leader(s) or high-level members of the organization would use force, violence, and intimidation against the offenders known as “cobrar falla” in Spanish, in an effort to maintain order within Dr. Palou and Jardines de Oriente, as well as other areas controlled by the drug trafficking organization.

For a period of time in the conspiracy, gang members from Dr. Palou and members of another drug trafficking organization joined forces in order to maintain control of Dr. Palou. It was further part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that members of the drug trafficking organization violently took control of the Jardines de Oriente drug point and of the Padre Rivera Public Housing Project. Some of the defendants and their co-conspirators who participated in the hostile takeover possessed, carried, brandished, and used firearms.

The defendants indicted and arrested today are: Lester Ozuna-González, a.k.a. “Lester Millones/La L”; Héctor Rivera-Resto, a.k.a. “El Cojo/El Negro”; Carlos Luis Pérez-Vega, a.k.a. “Kay/La K”; Christian Fernández-Jorge, a.k.a. “Ardilla”; Pedro César Burgos-Bergoderes, a.k.a. “Cesar/La C”; Félix A. Fernández-Jorge, a.k.a. “Viejo/Tom John”; José Christian Cabret-Pacheco, a.k.a. “Vaca”; Steven Peña-López, a.k.a. “Jampi/Jampier”; Anthony De León-Meléndez, a.k.a. “Montana/Antonio J. De León-Lugo”; Jorge Joel Figueroa-Rivera, a.k.a. “McDonald”; María Victoria Castro-González, a.k.a. “La Fea”; Kiara Liz Ortiz-Velázquez, a.k.a. “Kiki”; Josué Díaz-Rodríguez, a.k.a. “Casco”; Edwin Otero-Díaz, a.k.a. “Chewito”; Rafael Martínez-Trinidad, a.k.a. “Bebo”; Ricardo Burgos-Irizarry, a.k.a. “Chino”; Pedro R. Díaz-Torres, a.k.a. “Pinto”; Ángel G. Fernández-Jorge, a.k.a. “Piu”; Christian Carmona-Llanos, a.k.a. “Negro Carolina/Domi/Mono”; Luis A. Betancourt-Pantojas, a.k.a. “Nazi/Nassi”; Elvin José Castellano, a.k.a. “Menor”; José De La Cruz-Vázquez, a.k.a. “Oso”; Krizialisse Santana-González, a.k.a. “La Galla”; Jean Carlos Lebrón-Falcón, a.k.a. “Silencio”; Alex Miguel Rivera-Marquez, a.k.a. “Alex Corolla”; Edwin Otero-Marquez, a.k.a. “Chewi/Mono”; José Machuca-Benitez, a.k.a. “Mota”; Victor García-Benitez, a.k.a. “Shadow/El Negro”; Janses Rondón-Carrillo, a.k.a. “Janyo”; Samuel Rivera-Valcarcel, a.k.a. “Sammy”; Emilio Soto-Maldonado, a.k.a. “Millo”; Alexis Jean Santiago, a.k.a. “Doble A”; Bryan Ramos-Marrero, a.k.a. “Zurdo”; Nilsa Ortiz-Sánchez, a.k.a. “Mirelis/Mirielis/La Rubia”; and Luz Ortiz-Ubiles, a.k.a. “Mayra”.

“This indictment and the arrests this morning are a significant victory in our efforts to combat drug trafficking and violent crime,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We will continue to conduct investigations with our counterparts to dismantle these criminal organizations and to send a clear message that drugs, firearms, and violence will not be tolerated in our neighborhoods.”

“Teams of agents from every federal, state, and city law enforcement agency on the island have been working around the clock to take back the streets of Puerto Rico for all of the good citizens who deserve to safely enjoy their lives here. The diligence of our partners from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice make it possible to bring these major operations to the finish line,” stated Douglas A. Leff, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, San Juan Division.

Today’s arrests are part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa E. Bonhomme and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Y. Pineda-Pérez, from the Puerto Rico Department of Justice, are in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years, and up to life in prison. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a federal program designed to bring together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  The PSN program was reinvigorated in 2017, as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting each community’s most violent criminals. All U.S. Attorney’s Offices work in partnership with federal, state, and local law enforcement, as well as the local civilian community, to develop effective, targeted strategies to reduce violent crime. This case is a product of that collaborative effort.

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Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Prescription Drugs
Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Component(s): 
Updated February 12, 2019