MAY 27 (SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) –Nineteen individuals have been arrested and charged in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and conspiracy to import heroin from Colombia and Venezuela into Puerto Rico, announced U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez Vélez for the District of Puerto Rico. The federal and local agencies in charge of the investigation are the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPS), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Police of Puerto Rico.
The indictment unsealed in federal court today charges the following individuals: Hernando Marin-Echeverri, aka “Nando;” Ricardo Torres-Rivera, aka “Ricky;” Armando Rivera-Ortiz; Yarimar Rodríguez-Mercado, aka “La Tia”; Rodolfo Reyes-Santana, aka “Papote;” Carlos Fernando Saavedra-Potes, aka “Fernando;” Manuel Reinel Martínez-Salas, aka “Chino;” Christian Luis Martínez-Robles; Eduardo Rafael Campo-Carvajalino, aka “Tocayo;” Lucy Stella Gómez-Lopera, aka “La Flaca;” Jaime Ernesto Montoya-Gómez, aka “Risitas;” Jorge Aquiles Berríos-Vega, aka “Maracucho;” Paula Andrea Gavazno-Ruiz; Luis Medina-Chavez; Sariann Ramos-Maldonado, aka “Sara;” Nilson Aristizabal-Tezna; Jannette Saavedra-Echaevarría; José Luis Castro-Delgado; and Erika Casillas-Bonet.
From in or about August 2012 through in or about April 2013: Defendant Hernando Marin-Echeverri, based in Colombia, would communicate with defendants in Puerto Rico in order to coordinate the importation, transportation and distribution of heroin into Puerto Rico. Some defendants, acting as couriers, would travel into Venezuela to meet with other defendants who would provide suitcases with heroin hidden inside. Other defendants, based in Colombia, were responsible for preparing and hiding the heroin inside suitcases; transporting the suitcases from Colombia into Venezuela and delivering the suitcases to couriers.
Some defendants would transport and deliver drug proceeds, from Puerto Rico, to defendants in Venezuela. Drug proceeds from Puerto Rico to Colombia, were sent through electronic wire transfers. The defendants concealed and disguised the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the illegal proceeds obtained from drug trafficking, through money laundering. Another means used to send heroin laden parcels into Puerto Rico was through the United States Postal Service.
“These accusations demonstrate the Justice Department’s commitment to hold drug traffickers responsible for importing narcotics into the United States – no matter where they conduct their illegal business. Along with our domestic and international law enforcement partners, we will continue with our efforts to ensure that cartel members and associates are brought to justice for the damage they inflict on both sides of the border,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
“DEA will continue to investigate, disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations operating from Colombian and Venezuela using Puerto Rico as a transshipment point to smuggle narcotics into the United States,” said Vito Guarino, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Caribbean Division.
Eliezer Julian, Domicile Coordinator, U.S. Postal Inspection Service stated: “The U.S. Postal Inspection Services seeks to identify, disrupt, and dismantle drug trafficking organizations that attempt to utilize the U.S. Mails. We have strengthened our relationship with our federal and state law enforcement partners. This inter-agency cooperation has had an impact on DTO's operating in Puerto Rico.”
IRS-CI SAC José A. González stated, “The laundering of illegal drug profits is as important and essential to drug traffickers as the very distribution of their illegal drugs. By following the money trail, IRS-CI special agents were able to identify multiple wire transactions, between various cities in Puerto Rico and South America. These transactions were allegedly conducted by the defendants in furtherance of their drug smuggling operation from Colombia to Puerto Rico. IRS-CI will continue to work alongside its law enforcement partners in order to financially disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elba Gorbea is in charge of the prosecution of this 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.
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