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Press Release

62 Members of a Violent Gang Charged With Drug Trafficking and Firearms Violations in Arecibo, Puerto Rico

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On April 24, 2024, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging 62 violent gang members from the municipality of Arecibo with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, possession and distribution of controlled substances, and firearms violations, announced W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. This investigation was led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB), Arecibo Strike Force, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), with the collaboration of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S.  Marshals Service, the Bayamón Municipal Police, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Puerto Rico Public Housing Authority, and the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“Thanks to the work of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI, U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), and our state and local partners, more than 60 alleged gang members and over $72 million in drugs have been seized in this operation,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The residents of public housing projects deserve better than to be terrorized by violent drug trafficking gangs, and the Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to dismantle the gangs that fuel violent crime and profit from poisoning our communities.”

“The arrests in this case underscore the resolve of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and its law enforcement partners to uphold the rule of law and bring to justice violent criminals who threaten our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Muldrow. “The Department of Justice remains steadfast in its commitment to dismantle criminal organizations, hold gang members accountable, and pursue justice for victims.”

“The allegations in today’s indictments tell a scary story about gang violence in these public housing communities,” said ATF Director Steven Dettelbach. “For all the innocent residents who are trying to raise healthy families in safe communities, law enforcement wants you to know that we are here for you. Living in public housing cannot, and should not, mean being subjected to an atmosphere of gun violence and drug dealing around you and your family. ATF’s number one priority is getting the worst criminals – the trigger pullers and drug dealers  - off the streets. When rival gangs declare war on each other in the streets in any city, it is the innocent bystanders that suffer the greatest consequences. I want to commend all the ATF agents and our federal and local partners who worked tirelessly to make Arecibo and all of Puerto Rico a safer place.”

“Through the relentless collaboration, between the DEA, ATF, state and federal partners have dealt significant blows to the violent drug trafficking organizations operating within the El Cotto public housing project,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Denise Foster. “With over $72 million in street value narcotics seized and over 40 arrests made, our joint efforts underscore our unwavering commitment to dismantling criminal enterprises and safeguarding our communities.”

The indictment alleges that from 2014 through the present, the defendants worked as part of a drug trafficking organization (“DTO”) that distributed illegal drugs for significant financial gain and profit -- including cocaine base (commonly known as “crack”), heroin, cocaine, marihuana, Oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet), Alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax), Clonazepam (commonly known as Klonopin), and Tramadol – all within 1,000 feet of the Ramón Marín Solá Public Housing Project (“PHP”), the Trina Padilla de Sanz PHP, the Manuel Zeno Gandía PHP, the Bella Vista PHP, and La Meseta PHP, all five facilities owned by a public housing authority and collectively referred to as “El Cotto.” The charging documents further allege that the leaders of the DTO that operates within the five PHPs comprising El Cotto met regularly to discuss drug trafficking activities and prevent issues between the members of the organization. The goal of the DTO was to maintain control of the drug trafficking activities within their territory by the use of force, threats, violence, and intimidation.

The defendants acted in different roles to further the goals of the drug trafficking conspiracy, including acting as leaders, enforcers, runners, sellers, and facilitators. The defendants charged in the indictment are:

[1]      Melquisedec Navarro-Lorenzo, a.k.a. “Melqui/La M”

[2]      Joel Caraballo-López, a.k.a. “Flaqui”

[3]      Luis Amezquita-Lorenzo, a.k.a. “Berto/Bethoven”

[4]      Reinaldo Ortiz-González, a.k.a. “Chiqui/Compi Rey/Rajao/Viejo”

[5]      Alex Montalvo-Novoa, a.k.a. “Alex Chiquito”

[6]      Jonathan Joel Franco-Mercado, a.k.a. “Gancho”

[7]      Ivan Acosta-Rodríguez, a.k.a. “Luis Ivan Acosta Rodríguez/Luis Ivan Santiago Pérez/Ivan El Negro/Billy The Kid/Wakala”

[8]      Albert De Jesús-Schelmety, a.k.a. “Macu/Macuco”

[9]      Renso Marcial-Rodríguez

[10]    Josué Cedeño-Feliciano, a.k.a. “Camboya”

[11]    César Cardona-Mena, a.k.a. “Chivas”

[12]    Lydia M. Pagán-Arocho, a.k.a. “Tata”

[13]    Luis Méndez-Medina, a.k.a. “Tommy El Gago/Tommy El Loco”

[14]    Jonathan Robles-Maldonado, a.k.a. “Paramédico/Jonathan Paramédico”

[15]    Joseph Sanabria-Alequin, a.k.a. “Pitbull”

[16]    Yefrain Molina-Viruet, a.k.a. “Harry Potter”

[17]    Erick Juarbe-Rodríguez, a.k.a. “Erico”

[18]    Ramón Colón-Crespo, a.k.a. “Papito”

[19]    Jonathan Feliciano-Torres, a.k.a. “Duende”

[20]    Abdiel Yadiel Carrión-Rosado, a.k.a. “Gemelo”

[21]    Yadiel Abdiel Carrión-Rosado, a.k.a. “Gemelo”

[22]    Emmanuel Pérez-Rodríguez, a.k.a. “Manny/Manes/El Duraco Del Castillo”

[23]    Obrian D. Mercado-Rivera

[24]    Ashley J. Rodríguez-Pérez, a.k.a. “Chal/Char”

[25]    Jimar I. Álvarez-Maldonado, a.k.a. “Gordo”

[26]    Jimel J. Ortiz-Delgado, a.k.a. “Maiky/La Jota”

[27]    Bryan Medina-Herrera, a.k.a. “Bryan Dialysis”

[28]    Rafael Valle-Delgado, a.k.a. “Rafa Valle”

[29]    Mitzuel Torres-Rivera

[30]    Jan C. Cuevas-Correa

[31]    Alexander Serrano-Colón, a.k.a. “Calle 13”

[32]    Joselito Rodríguez-Álvarez, a.k.a. “Bombili”

[33]    Ángel M. Felix-García, a.k.a. “Bully”

[34]    Ángel Cortés-Soto, a.k.a. “Ángel el Bizco”

[35]    Evans Y. Herrera-Quiñones, a.k.a. “El Enano”

[36]    Luis O. Valentin-Rivera, a.k.a. “Luis Paramédico/Paramédico Valentin/Omar”

[37]    Jesús D. Rodríguez-Martínez, a.k.a. “Spock/Danny”

[38]    Héctor Y. Rodríguez-Miranda, a.k.a. “Negri/Negrito”

[39]    Michael Jordan-Lugo, a.k.a. “Jordan/Goldo”

[40]    Kenneth Medina-Velázquez, a.k.a. “Kenny”

[41]    Edgardo J. Ríos-Santana, a.k.a. “Coco”

[42]    Kelvin Hernández-Bonilla, a.k.a. “Yampi/Yapi”

[43]    Carlos Rodríguez-Herrera, a.k.a. “Carlitos/Hermano de Brian Dialysis”

[44]    Natanael Franco-Mercado, a.k.a. “Nata/Hermano de Gancho/Cirilo”

[45]    Amisael Flores-Martínez, a.k.a. “Misa”

[46]    Giovanni Molina-Viruet, a.k.a. “Giovannie/Giovanny”

[47]    Alvin Y. Torres-Santiago, a.k.a. “Wisin/Yamil”

[48]    Emmanuel Serrano-Feliciano, a.k.a. “Nana”

[49]    Brandom L. Díaz-Navarro, a.k.a. “Brandon”

[50]    Joshua Vargas-Feliciano, a.k.a. “Buda”

[51]    Geovanell Mercado-Marrero, a.k.a. “Kiko”

[52]    Jorge Cintrón-Cordero, a.k.a. “Ogui”

[53]    Adonis J. Rosado-Serrano

[54]    Jonathan Ayala-Torres, a.k.a. “Menor/Siete Pestes/Jon”

[55]    José Santiago-Quiles, a.k.a. “Ewan”

[56]    Liuzkany Rivera-Arroyo, a.k.a. “Kany/Luzkany”

[57]    Adrián M. Lezca

[58]    Kevin X. Pérez-Molina, a.k.a. “Chino”

[59]    Jair X. Galarza, a.k.a. “Marciano”

[60]    Shaquilomar Molina-Soto, a.k.a. “Shaquille”

[61]    Israel Rivera-Rivera, a.k.a. “Gemelo”

[62]    Dexie Marie Narpiel Nieves, a.k.a. “La Flaca/Depsi/Petunia”

Thirty-Six of the above-listed defendants also face one charge of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Upon conviction, all defendants are subject to a narcotics forfeiture allegation of $72,868,600.

Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) and Chief of the Gang Section Alberto López-Rocafort; Deputy Chief of the Gang Section, AUSA Teresa Zapata-Valladares; and AUSAs Pedro R. Casablanca and R. Vance Eaton are in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted on the drug trafficking charges, the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison. A conviction on the firearms charge carries a mandatory, minimum sentence of five years to life imprisonment, to be served consecutively to any sentence imposed on the drug trafficking charges.

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.


Updated May 2, 2024

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 2024-032