Four (4) Members Of An International Drug Trafficking Organization Found Guilty Of Conspiracy To Import 146 Kilograms Of Cocaine And 8 Kilograms Of Heroin Into Puerto Rico
Two (2) Others Pled Guilty Before Trial
SAN JUAN, P.R. - Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico announced that yesterday, a federal jury returned a guilty verdict against Manuel Liriano-De la Cruz, José Pena-Santo, Jonathan Martinez, and José Ramón Vicente-Arias for Conspiring to Import Drugs into the United States and Conspiring to Possess Drugs in a Vessel Subject to the Jurisdiction of the United States. Liriano-De la Cruz and Pena-Santo were also found guilty of being aliens attempting to illegally re-enter into the United States after having been removed from the United States. All four (4), members of an international drug trafficking organization based in the Dominican Republic, attempted to introduce a load of 146 kilograms of cocaine and 8 kilograms of heroin, with a street value of 3.2 million dollars into Puerto Rico. Two (2) other defendants, Alejandro Difot-Santos and Carlos De la Cruz-Sànchez pled guilty, the day before the trial was scheduled to begin.
The evidence at trial showed that the drug traffickers departed from the Dominican Republic in a yawl carrying the load of drugs contained in six bags wrapped with duct tape. The yawl was detected in the late evening and early morning hours by law enforcement heading in a track line towards the coast of Puerto Rico. Air and marine units from the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch (CAMB), U.S. Coast Guard and FURA from the Puerto Rico Police Department were launched to intercept the yawl. A fast boat from the U.S. Coast Guard arrived and detained the yawl, along with the six subjects onboard, approximately four (4) nautical miles off the coast of Dorado in U.S. customs waters. A fixed wing aircraft from CAMB observed the individuals onboard the yawl throwing the bales containing the load of drugs into the water. A CAMB helicopter illuminated the debris field which allowed the FURA marine unit to recover the heavy packages before they sank.
This case shows the commitment of federal and state authorities to work together against the drug trafficking organizations that attempt to use our coasts for the importation of drugs into the United States.
The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney US Coast Guard Lieutenant Kelley Tiffany and Assistant United States Attorney Carlos R. Cardona from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) initiative of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.