DEA and the Bayamon Strike Force Arrests 58 in
SEP 03 -- SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico- This morning, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bayamón Strike Force executed 74 arrests warrants as a result of an investigation targeting the drug trafficking organization based in Altos de Cuba in the Municipality of Vega Baja. Thus far the operation has resulted in the arrest of 58 individuals for their alleged participation in a drug trafficking conspiracy, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico and Vito Guarino, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA, Caribbean Division.
Yesterday, a federal grand jury approved the indictment of 74 individuals charged with conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute narcotics, firearms violations, retaliation against an informant, destruction of government property, assault on a law enforcement officer, using persons under 18 to possess with intent to distribute narcotics and forfeiture allegations.
According to the indictment, the object of the conspiracy was to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana, Oxycodone (Percocet), and Alprazolam (Xanax) at several drug distribution points in the Altos de Cuba ward, located in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, all for financial gain and profit. The organization has been operating since 1999, according to the indictment.
The indictment further alleges that some of the cocaine purchased was cooked in order to make cocaine-based crack that was later distributed, along with heroin, cocaine and marijuana, in small bags at the drug selling points. The indictment also alleges that some of the heroin sold by the organization was mixed with other ingredients, such as equine (horse) anesthesia to enhance its effects on users. At one point, the organization was selling more than 14 kinds of heroin. The leaders of the organization divided the proceeds of the drug trafficking sales among themselves and their subordinates. The leaders would also lease the rights to some drug distribution points to other co-conspirators, in exchange for a monthly payment. The leaders would allow members of the conspiracy to carry firearms to protect the drug distribution business and would commit acts of violence to ensure members obeyed their decision.
The charging document also alleges that some of the co-conspirators used residences in order to package and conceal the controlled substances as well as the materials to process the same. The 74 individuals charged in the indictment had different roles in the conspiracy, such as: leaders, suppliers, runners, enforcers, and facilitators to further the goals of the conspiracy.
“This case is another example of the success of the Strike Force initiative. The Strike Force concept promotes teamwork amongst federal, state and local agencies to disrupt the flow of illegal drugs into our communities” said Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. "By pooling the resources of the Bayamón Strike Force with our DEA HIDTA we have been able to continue working aggressively to keep drugs off our streets, and to dismantle the violent criminal networks that profit from narcotics trafficking."
"Today the DEA joins forces with our Bayamon Strike Force counterparts in removing from head to toe the drug trafficking organization which for many years has been besieging Altos de Cuba with the venom of their illegal drugs and their violence to perpetrate their crimes and intimidate the community” said DEA Caribbean Division Acting Special Agent in Charge Vito S. Guarino. “DEA will continue supporting the U.S. Attorney's Strike Forces and HIDTA program with DEA’s unique expertise and resources to fight drug trafficking in every corner of the island. Teamwork has time and again has proven to be the most effective tool to carry on this fight against illegal drugs. DEA is part of that team."
The investigation was conducted the DEA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) San Juan Task Force. The DEA HIDTA Task Force includes agents from the DEA, PRPD and NIE. HIDTA is a anti drug initiative of the White House’s Office of National Control Policy. The Bayamón Strike Force provided significant investigative assistance to the DEA. The Bayamón Strike Force is part of the Strike Force anti violent crimes initiative of the U.S. Attorney’s for the District of Puerto Rico, as part of the U.S. Department of Justice Project Safe Neighborhood program, which targets violent drug trafficking gangs and gung related violent crimes. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney George Massucco-La Taif and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Olga Castellón, under the supervision of Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Guillermo Gil-Bonar.
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). Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.