MAY 20 (SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) – U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, announced the indictment and arrest of 24 defendants charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) are the agencies in charge of the investigation.
The indictment returned by a federal grand jury on May 15, 2014, and unsealed in federal court today, charges 24 individuals with conspiracy to knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute cocaine. Beginning on a date unknown, but not later than the year 2009, the object of the conspiracy was to possess and distribute kilogram quantities of controlled substances, mainly cocaine, in Puerto Rico for further distribution in the continental United States, all for significant financial gain and profit.
As part of the manner and means by which the defendants and their associates accomplished the objects of the conspiracy, they recruited individuals to use them as “mules” or couriers in order to transport kilograms of cocaine from the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (“LMMIA”), located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the continental United States. The defendants used residences located within the area of Orlando and Kissimmee, Florida, in order to stash large amounts of U.S. currency and drugs.
The co-defendants and their co-conspirators concealed kilogram quantities of cocaine using the children’s toy “Lite Brite” and DVD players of different brands. It was further part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that the co-defendants and their co-conspirators would travel, or cause others to travel in commercial airline flights, from Puerto Rico to the continental United States, carrying kilogram quantities of cocaine hidden in suitcases; and their co-conspirators would receive kilogram quantities of cocaine in the continental United States for further distribution.
The co-defendants and their co-conspirators often used the recruited couriers and the same containers to transport the profits generated from the drug sales back to Puerto Rico. They invested part of the profits of the sales in the purchase of more narcotics, to further their drug trafficking activities. The leaders of the conspiracy used part of the proceeds of the illegal activity to purchase legitimate assets and services, including but not limited to, real estate properties, nightclubs, motor vehicles, vessels, clothing, trips, hotel accommodations, private parties and plastic surgery.
The defendants are: Heriberto Burgos-Martínez, aka “Spowell;” Saul Guzmán-Font, aka “Saul Peluca;” Michael Aponte-Pinto, aka “Lito;” Hector Tapia-Rodríguez, aka “Hugo;” Roberto Ramírez-Rodríguez, aka “Rockero;” Xavier Rodríguez-Casado, aka “Bebo Gran;” Roberto Baez-Figueroa, aka “Potro;” Lonnie Tapia-Rodríguez, aka “Cascote;” José W. Telleria-Arriaga, aka “Gordo;” Max J. Acevedo-Andino, aka “Max Joel;” Victor Rivera-Mercado, aka “Poke;” Mecsac Ramírez-Rodríguez, aka “Messak;” Ángel García-Trinidad, aka “Angelito;” Paulette Concepción-Díaz, aka “Pao;” Yamira Díaz-Algarín; Landy Y. Castro-Flores; Luis F. Villegas-Nieves, aka “Blon Blon;” Neftali Galindo-Isaac, aka “Fifty;” Allan Rodríguez-Crispin, aka “Love;” Jesús E. Miranda-Lugo, aka “Shaka;” José Oliveras-Ruiz, aka “Cascara;” Hector M. Robles-Alvira; Lefty Méndez-Valentin, aka “Zurdo;” and Edwin M. Rosario-Rodríguez, aka “Toto.”
“Drug trafficking organizations must be aggressively attacked and dismantled at every level,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “Today we have stopped a criminal organization from funneling significant quantities of cocaine into the continental United States using commercial airlines from Puerto Rico to the state of Florida. This operation will have significant effects, not only in Puerto Rico, but in the streets and communities in Florida which were used by this organization to further their drug distribution activities.”
“DEA’s continuous interdiction efforts at the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport led to the investigation of the Heriberto BURGOS-Martinez Drug Trafficking Organization and subsequent arrest of 24 members of his drug trafficking organization,” said Vito Salvatore Guarino, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Caribbean Division. “Also our HIDTA partners were essential in the success of this investigation. We will continue using the HIDTA resources to target other criminal organizations engaged in drug transportation activities.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alberto R. López-Rocafort and Teresa Zapata-Valladares are in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in prison. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The defendants were the targets of a long-term Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDEFT) investigation. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.