SAN JUAN, PR – On October 14, a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging four individuals with participating in a conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats or violence, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, stealing firearms, and prohibited person in possession of a firearm, announced United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is in charge of the investigation with the collaboration of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI).
The object of the conspiracy was to commit a robbery at the Police of Puerto Rico (POPR) Shooting Range. The robbery took place on October 26, 2010. The co-conspirators subdued the duty police officers and stole the POPR’s firearms stored in the vault to subsequently illegally sell them for significant pecuniary gain and profit. The co-conspirators are: José Padilla-Galarza, aka “Joey;” Gilberto Ramos-Quiñonez, aka “Bolillo;” Ramón Santiago-Ortega, aka “Pucho;” and Guill Reabing-Padilla, aka “Gil”. Padilla-Galarza was a police officer approximately 20 years ago. All defendants are convicted felons in possession of firearms.
According to the indictment the defendants used to visit the Isla de Cabra Shooting Range, in order to become familiar with the personnel, their shifts, and the layout of the facility. The defendants used a white Ford Crown Victoria or Mercury Grand Marquis attached with decals of the POPR to give it the appearance of an official POPR patrol car. Members of the conspiracy dressed as POPR police officers, some in regular police uniforms and others in tactical uniforms.
The 125 firearms stolen, including the two pistols taken from duty officers were: 40 AR-15 rifles, 24 shotguns, nine 9mm carbines, one MP3 rifle, and 49 pistols. This is the biggest firearms robbery in the history of Puerto Rico.
“The potential harm that can result from the movement of illegal firearms through Puerto Rico cannot be overstated. The unlawful trafficking in firearms is a serious crime that intensifies the violence that is plaguing so many communities around us. This investigation is a testament to the collective resolve of federal law enforcement to stem the flow of illegal firearms,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
“I would like to recognize the commitment and hard work of the investigators and prosecutors who brought this case to a conclusion,” said ATF Miami Field Division Special Agent in Charge Carlos A. Canino. “We will never stop investigating these types of heinous crimes. Not for five days not for five years. ATF Puerto Rico is committed to the fight against violent crime and firearms trafficking.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Max Pérez-Bouret.
If found guilty, the defendants are facing terms of imprisonment of up to 20 years for the Hobbs and a minimum of seven years up to life for Possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (robbery) with brandishing enhancement. Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.