SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A federal jury convicted Alexis Candelario Santana today for: violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 8 murders, the murder of an unborn child, 19 attempted murders, drug trafficking, and being a felon in possession. United States District Court Senior Judge Francisco A. Besosa presided over the retrial that commenced on June 20, 2023.
Alexis Candelario Santana, 51, faces life in prison following his conviction of murdering eight people and an unborn child and attempting to murder 19 others during a mass shooting that occurred at a Puerto Rico on Oct. 17, 2009, in what became known as the “La Tómbola Massacre.”
Candelario Santana was convicted of 28 counts of violent crime in aid of racketeering activity, one count of racketeering conspiracy, nine counts of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and one count of possession of a firearm with a prior conviction.
According to the evidence presented at trial, from approximately 1993 through 2003, Candelario Santana was the leader of a drug trafficking organization that operated in the Sabana Seca ward of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. The organization purchased drugs in bulk, processed and packaged the drugs, and sold them in Sabana Seca through numerous sellers, runners, and enforcers under Candelario Santana’s direction and control. The organization trafficked in crack, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. The members of the organization routinely possessed firearms to protect their drug points. The evidence introduced at trial also established that, between 1995 and 2001, Candelario Santana either personally killed, or ordered others to kill, 13 individuals whom he viewed as threats or as disloyal members of his drug trafficking organization.
Around 2002, Candelario Santana was arrested and charged in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico with numerous murders. Initially, Candelario Santana maintained control of the drug trafficking organization from prison with assistance from co-defendant Carmelo Rondón Feliciano, who had taken charge of the drug trafficking organization’s activities. Sometime in 2004 Candelario Santana was marginalized by co‑conspirators Wilfredo Semprit Santana and Rondón Feliciano. On September 25, 2006, however, Rondón Feliciano was arrested and charged in the District of Puerto Rico with federal drug trafficking crimes. These charges stemmed, in part, from Rondón Feliciano’s distribution of narcotics in Sabana Seca. After Rondón Feliciano’s arrest, co‑conspirator Semprit Santana assumed control of the drug trafficking organization in Sabana Seca. According to evidence presented at the second trial, Candelario Santana became infuriated at being removed from power within the drug trafficking organization.
Candelario Santana was released from prison in February 2009. Thereafter, on October 17, 2009, Semprit Santana held a grand opening of a pub he rented in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico called La Tómbola. The event was heavily attended, with people congregating inside and outside the establishment. At approximately 11:50 p.m., Candelario Santana and others, drove to La Tómbola. When they arrived, they immediately opened fire on the patrons outside the establishment. Candelario Santana and others also entered the pub and opened fire on the people inside.
Eight people and an 8-month unborn child were killed because of the gunfire. 19 other victims were also shot and injured. Those killed included Candelario Santana’s godson, Rondón Feliciano’s stepson and Candelario Santana’s cousin. The evidence presented at trial included 335 expended shell-casings recovered from the La Tómbola crime scene. The ballistics evidence established that 17 different firearms were used during the massacre, which included the following calibers: 9 mm, .40, 45, AK-47, and AR-15.
Candelario Santana is scheduled to be sentenced on October 27, 2023.
U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the District of Puerto Rico and Joseph González, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Juan Field Office, made the announcement.
The case was investigated by FBI and the Puerto Rico Police Bureau, with the collaboration of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Instituto de Ciencias Forenses; and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Víctor Acevedo-Hernández and Scott Anderson prosecuted the case.