42 Members of a Drug Trafficking and Firearms Organization Arrested by the Guayama Strike Force
APR 02 -- SAN JUAN, P.R. – This morning, strike force agents arrested 42 members of the drug trafficking organization, which had been established since 2006 at the San Antonio Public Housing Project, commonly referred to as “Carioca”, and the Luis Pales Matos Public Housing Project; Olympo and Borinquen Wards and the Guayama Regional Prison. The arrest warrants were executed by approximately 350 agents of the DEA, FBI, ICE, Puerto Rico Police Department and the Guayama Municipal Police Department.
On March 27, 2009, a federal Grand Jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a seven-count indictment, charging 47 defendants with federal drug trafficking and firearms offenses.
The indictment charges that since the year 2006, the members of the drug trafficking organization knowingly and intentionally possessed with intent to distribute and/or distributed controlled substances, to wit: in excess of fifty (50) grams of “crack”; and/or in excess of one (1) kilogram of heroin; and/or in excess of five (5) kilograms of cocaine, and/or in excess of one thousand (1000) kilograms of marijuana; and/or detectable amounts of Oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet); within one thousand (1,000) feet of the real property comprising a public or private school, or housing facility owned by a public housing authority and/or playground. All in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), 846, and 860. The indictment further alleges that some of the defendants aiding and abetting each other, in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, unlawfully possessed firearms, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 924(o). The indictment also contains narcotics forfeiture allegations, pursuant to Title 21, United States Code, Section 853.
“Since first Strike Force multi defendant investigations started in 2006, we have been able to arrest and prosecute a total of 944 defendants, in a joint effort to clean up the communities in Puerto Rico,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez during a press conference today. “The hard work and efforts of state and federal law enforcement agencies in the Guayama Strike Force Unit prove that, once again, through collaboration we can and will eliminate all active and violent drug trafficking organizations in Puerto Rico”.
The indictment alleges that defendant José Ramos-Hernández, aka “Zuky,” aka “Papujo,” was the principal leader of the conspiracy, and he controlled, through twelve (12) co-defendants also acting as leaders, the drug distribution points located at “Carioca” and Luis Palés Matos Housing Projects and other areas in the Municipality of Guayama. The leaders of this violent drug trafficking organization had final approval authority as to disciplinary action to be imposed upon residents of Carioca, members of the conspiracy, as well as actions to be taken against enemies of the drug trafficking organization.
The leaders of the drug trafficking organization would oversee a group of co-defendants managing the drug distribution activities at the numerous drug points under their control. The leaders of this organization would divide amongst themselves and their subordinates the proceeds of the drug trafficking sales. Some of the co-conspirators would routinely possess, carry, brandish and use firearms to protect themselves and the drug trafficking organization. Some of the co-conspirators would use violence, force and intimidation in order to gain or maintain control of the drug trafficking operations. The co-conspirators operated in different roles, in order to further the goals of the conspiracy, to wit: thirteen (13) leaders; five (5) enforcers; ten (10) runners; seventeen (17) sellers; and two (2) female drug processors and facilitators.
Penalties for the narcotics offenses alleged in the indictment range from ten (10) years to life imprisonment, and fines of up to four million dollars ($4,000,000.00). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jose Capó-Iriarte and Assistant U.S. Attorney Myriam Fernández under the coordination of Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Guillermo Gil.
Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.