DEA Dismantles Two Drug Trafficking Organizations In Ponce, Puerto Rico
MAY 8 -- (San Juan, P.R.) - Yesterday morning, a federal grand jury issued a seven-count indictment, charging 19 defendants from El Cachete Sector in Ponce, PR, with federal drug trafficking and firearms offenses. On April 29, 2008, the grand jury issued a related indictment charging 18 defendants, who were members of El Cachete Sector’s competing drug trafficking organization located in neighboring Ferrán Ward in Ponce, PR, with federal drug trafficking and firearms offenses. Today, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Puerto Rico Police Department arrested 26 members of these organizations, announced United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez and DEA Caribbean Division Acting Special Agent in Charge Vito S. Guarino, during a press conference.
Most of the co-conspirators would routinely possess, carry, brandish and use firearms in order to protect themselves and the drug trafficking organization’s territory. In the El Cachete Sector, it was part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that some of the co-conspirators would often dress alike, and would use similar colored shirts, in an attempt to prevent their identification by the police while working at the drug distribution point. The leaders of El Cachete drug trafficking organization, through the use of violence and intimidation, would dictate the hours of operation of an adjacent drug distribution point commonly known as the Venus drug distribution point and would prohibit the sale of “crack” at the Venus drug distribution point.
“With these indictments we have dismantled two drug points that were very close to each other, only one street separated their operations, in the City of Ponce. These gangs used violence indiscriminately to protect their drug distribution business. Recently there have been many shootings and violent incidents between them,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “We reiterate our commitment with the people who live in these communities and are victimized by the wave of violence around them. With the support of federal and state law enforcement agencies, we will continue prosecuting those who violate the rights of law abiding citizens to live in peace. Puerto Ricans deserve to live in a better environment, and we will continue working to make sure our communities are safe again.”
“DEA will continue targeting violent drug trafficking organizations which keep the law abiding citizens of the City of Ponce from enjoying a safe and drug free community” Said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Vito S. Guarino. “The Police of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Attorney can count on the continued support of the DEA to put a stop to the violence affecting our communities” concluded DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Vito S. Guarino.
The Venus drug point started operating in 2003. It had eight (8) leaders, one (1) enforcer, three (3) runners, five (5) sellers and one (1) drug processor. These defendants had more than one function within the conspiracy. It was part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that leaders would allow their subordinates to sell specific types of narcotics. Some co-conspirators also assisted and participated in some of the activities of the El Cachete Sector drug trafficking gang.
Penalties for the offenses alleged in the indictments range from 10 years to life in prison and fines of up to $4 million dollars.
These arrests are the results of the joint efforts of the Ponce Strike Force and Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) programs, under the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the DEA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Ponce Resident Office. The investigation was lead by the DEA HIDTA Ponce RO. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney José Capó with the collaboration of Special Assistant US Attorney Gillermo Gil-Bonar.
Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.