News Release
October 6, 2006

56 charged in drug trafficking & money laundering indictments

-- Arrests made in New Jersey, New York, Georgia, Puerto Rico,
Colombia, St. Martin & Dominican Republic --

SAN JUAN, P.R.- Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Manuel Oyola-Torres, Special Agent in Charge, Office of Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),Luis S. Fraticelli, Special Agent in Charge, San Juan Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Jerome M. Harris, Special Agent in Charge, Caribbean Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Pedro Toledo-Davila, Superintendent of the Police of Puerto Rico (POPR), Roberto J. Sanchez Ramos, Secretary, Puerto Rico Department of Justice, Juan Carlos Mendez, Secretary, Puerto Rico Department of Treasury (Hacienda) and Adalberto Mercado, San Juan Commissioner of Public Safety, today announced the indictment of 56 individuals for drug trafficking and money laundering charges within Puerto Rico, Colombia, St. Martin, Netherlands Antilles, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and the Dominican Republic.

This morning, as part of FBI’s “Operation Green Traketon”and ICE/ DEA’s “Operation Watusi,” both of which were cases under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, U.S. and foreign law enforcement officers conducted simultaneous arrests in several countries that resulted in the total arrest of 27 individuals. To date, these joint investigations have resulted in the seizure of numerous foreign and domestic bank accounts, 3.1 million dollars in U.S. currency, approximately 1,900 kilos of cocaine, and six vessels.

Two of the eight indictments allege that the defendants, and their co-conspirators, coordinated the transportation of multi-million dollar shipments of cocaine from South America to Puerto Rico via motor vessels. Seven of the eight indictments allege that the defendants and their co-conspirators laundered the narcotics proceeds through various financial transactions. The currency is alleged to have been laundered through a complex money laundering scheme known as the Black Market Peso Exchange. The indictments also seek the forfeiture of the proceeds of the crimes.

Among the charges, one of the indictments alleges that an accused leader of one of the organizations, Luis Peña-Peña, coordinated the kidnaping of a U.S. citizen in Medellin, Colombia, on December 13, 2005. The indictment also alleges that a ransom of two-million dollars in U.S. currency was requested for the release of the U.S. citizen.

During the investigation, federal agents were able to infiltrate the money laundering and drug trafficking organizations, identifying the source of the supply of the drugs, the foreign and domestic drug transporters, a distributor, and money launderers. As a result of these simultaneous arrests in the U.S. and in several foreign countries, federal agents have dismantled several drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.

The narcotics offenses charged in the indictments involve a sentence of a minimum of ten years of imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and a fine of not more than $4,000,000.00. The penalties for the money laundering offenses alleged in the indictments involve a maximum of 20 years of imprisonment, a fine of not more than $500,000.00 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater.

This indictment is the result of a joint investigation conducted by agents from DEA, FBI and ICE, the Puerto Rico Police Department, Puerto Rico Department of Justice, Puerto Rico Department of Treasury (Hacienda), the San Juan Commissioner of Public Safety, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The governments of Colombia, the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles, and the British Virgin Islands assisted in this investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy R. Henwood.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of any guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial. The U.S. government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.