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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 21, 2022

Caribbean Corridor Strike Force Arrests Four Individuals Charged with Drug Trafficking

Two-Hundred and Twenty-Eight Kilograms of Cocaine Seized

ind_drug_trafficking_cloro_7-20-22-cr-328-fab_.pdfSAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On July 20, 2022, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging four individuals with conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, announced W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. Participating agencies in the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force and the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB) are in charge of the investigation of the case, with the collaboration from: the Puerto Rico Department of Justice, the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety, the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the San Juan Municipal Police, and the Guaynabo Municipal Police.

According to the evidence recovered in the investigation, and as alleged in the indictment, as part of the manners and means of the conspiracy, the members of the conspiracy packaged the cocaine inside cardboard boxes labeled as cleaning products.

The defendants named in the indictment are:

     Francisco Rivera-Rivera

     Santiago Ramírez

     Teddy Vergara-López

     Jonathan Castro-Rivera

Part of the contraband seized in this case was recently recovered from a warehouse at a correctional facility.  At this time, the evidence does not indicate the involvement of any correctional officer or correctional employee in the commission of this crime. Instead, it appears that the cocaine-laden boxes were not removed from the shipment as planned, and were mistakenly taken to the Ponce warehouse with the cleaning products.  The estimated value of the approximately 228 kilograms of cocaine seized in this investigation is $4,104,000.

“This operation reflects the excellent collaboration between our state and federal law enforcement partners.   We will continue following leads in this investigation in order to identify all of those responsible,” said W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.

“The Caribbean Corridor Strike Force is composed of our federal, state and local counterparts in an effort to stop the movement of contraband in the Caribbean,” said Iván J. Arvelo, Special Agent in Charge for HSI San Juan. “Those involved in drug trafficking should know that the Caribbean is no longer an option to transship narcotics into the United States, we are working together, we are interdicting, and we are arresting.”

“The events related to the discovery of 50 kilos of cocaine inside a warehouse at the Ponce Correctional Facility, have been coordinated with our Federal Law Enforcement partners, the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, and the Department of Public Safety.  Our combined mission in the investigation of this crime and violation of the law is to find and prosecute all individuals involved in this criminal organization,” stated the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety, Alexis Torres.

Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) and Chief of the Transnational Organized Crime Section Max Pérez-Bouret, Deputy Chief of the Transnational Organized Crime Section, AUSA Vanessa Bonhomme, and AUSA Luis A. Valentin 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.

The Caribbean Corridor Strike Force is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force’s (OCDETF) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations. Participating agencies of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force include the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), the U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated July 21, 2022