THE PONCE CONSORTIUM
95 Members of a Consortium of Several Criminal Street Gangs Indicted for Drug Trafficking and Firearms Violations as a Result of an OCDEFT Investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration
AUG 6 -- SAN JUAN, P.R. - Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico; Jerome Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Caribbean Division; Julie Torres, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Division; Manuel Oyola, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), San Juan Office of Investigations; Luis Fraticelli, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) , San Juan Division; Pedro Toledo, Superintendent, Police of Puerto Rico (PRPD); and Luis R. Rios, Director, Puerto Rico Justice Department’s Special Investigations Bureau (NIE) today jointly announced the arrest of 53 members of several criminal street gangs operating thought the southern region of Puerto Rico. On July 24, 2007, a federal grand jury issued a three count indictment, accusing the 95 defendants of federal drug trafficking and firearms offenses. The defendants formed a consortium amongst several criminal street gangs to form a drug trafficking organization in order to control and monopolize drug trafficking trough out the Municipalities of Ponce and Juana Diaz. The arrest operation is still ongoing.
The indictment alleges that since January of 2003 the defendants conspired to possess with intent to distribute one (1) kilogram or more of heroin; fifty (50) grams or more of cocaine base (“crack”); five (5) kilograms or more of cocaine, and one thousand (1,000) kilograms or more of marihuana, within the Dr. Pila Public Housing Project; Ponce Housing Public Housing Project; El Puente (located across the street from the Dr. Pila Public Housing Project); Acueducto Street; El Tuque Ward; El Almacén (located at Virtud Street); Betances Street; José M. Gándara Public Housing Project; Portugues Public Housing Project; Los Rosales Public Housing Project; Ernesto Ramos Antonini Public Housing Project (“Pámpanos”); Bélgica Ward; Hortaliza Sector at Coto Laurel Ward; Palmarejo Sector at Coto Laurel Ward; Borinquen Ward; Las Martínez Alley at La Cantera Sector; Puerto Viejo at the Ponce Beach Area; La Coroza Ward, and Las Vallas Sector at Maraguez Ward, all the above located in the Municipality of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and the drug distribution points located at Sabana Llana Ward; La Plena Ward and Los Mojaos Sector, all in the Municipality of Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico. All in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), 846, and 860. The indictment further alleges that the defendants aiding and abetting each other, in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime unlawfully possessed, used and carried firearms, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 924(c)(1) and 2. The indictment also contains narcotics forfeiture allegations in the amount of $1,500,000.00 pursuant to Title 21, United States Code, Section 853.
The indictment alleges that the defendants controlled the street distribution of narcotics in the Municipality of Ponce and other areas and that they took over drug distribution points by means of violence, force and intimidation, in order to expand their drug trafficking activities within the Municipalities of Ponce and Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico. The leaders shared the ownership of the different drug distribution points. The defendants took control of the Dr. Pila Public Housing Project drug distribution point by means of force, violence and intimidation. The defendants would purchase wholesale quantities of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana and distribute the same in street quantities amounts throughout their different drug points in the Municipalities of Ponce and Juana Diaz. The leaders would maintain a group of co-defendants administrating the activities of the drug distribution points located at the numerous drug points under their control. The leaders of this organization would divide among 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 such as leaders, facilitator, enforcers, runners, sellers, and drug processors.
Penalties for the offenses alleged in the indictment range from 10 years to life in prison and fines of up to $4 million dollars. The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial and the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was investigated under the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) programs, in support of the USDOJ Anti-Gang initiative. The investigation was lead by the DEA’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Ponce Office, with the collaboration of the FBI, ICE, ATF, PRPD’s Strike Force and NIE. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Jose Capo-Iriarte and AUSA Elba Gorbea, under the supervisionof Special AUSA Guillermo Gil-Bonar.
A list of the defendants identified by their number in the indictment and their roles is attached.