SEP 24 (SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) – On September 18, 2014, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment against 30 defendants charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. Today DEA and ATF agents and officers of the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), executed the arrest warrants.
The object of the conspiracy was to distribute controlled substances at the Las Mesetas Public Housing Project located within the Municipality of Arecibo, Puerto Rico since 2008. This organization would purchase wholesale quantities of heroin, cocaine, and marihuana in order to distribute the same in street quantity amounts at their drug distribution points in Las Mesetas. These drug points would have fixed prices for types of drugs in order to maintain the parity of the sales. The leader and drug point owner would have other members of the organization administrating the daily activities of the drug distribution point.
Some of the cocaine purchased at wholesale quantities would be converted into crack cocaine, “cooked”, for subsequent sale and distribution at the drug points. The organization would use residences located within Las Mesetas and other locations outside the housing project to conceal drugs, drug paraphernalia, firearms and ammunitions. Some of the defendants would routinely possess, carry, brandish, and use firearms to protect themselves and further their drug trafficking organization.
The main leader of the drug trafficking organization, Jorge Sanchez-Sostre aka “Georgie” had control of the drug distribution points located within Las Mesetas through three co-defendants also acting as drug point owners. These drug point owners were Yadira Casanova-Avila, Jonathan Beltran-Perez aka “Puruco”, and Christian Sanchez-Sostre. The leaders of the organization had the final approving authority as to the disciplinary actions to be imposed upon residents of Las Mesetas and members of the conspiracy.
“Today’s arrests demonstrate our commitment to dismantle drug trafficking organizations which, through their illicit business, are affecting the quality of life of the law abiding citizens in our public housing projects.” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We will continue our hard work to maintain the peace in our neighborhoods.”
“ATF's FRONTLINE strategy in protecting Americans and our communities from violent crime is our number one priority. Today's Las Mesetas case is just another example of ATF's efforts of working hand in hand with our DEA and PRPD law enforcement partners,” said Special Agent in Charge Hugo Barrera, Miami Field Division. “We will work together to eradicate violent gun and drug related crime and dismantle Drug Trafficking Organizations such as this one.”
“DEA will continue to work hand in hand with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Puerto Rico Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service, Puerto Rico National Guard, Puerto Rico Housing Department, Special Investigations Bureau, Ports of Authority and the Department of Corrections, in effort to disrupt and dismantle all the violent drug trafficking organizations that utilize firearms to intimidate and operate their drug points out of the Public Housing Projects and other communities for financial gain. These Drug Trafficking Organizations will not be allowed to continue nor expand their operations,” said Vito Salvatore Guarino, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Caribbean Division.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor Acevedo and Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Erbe are in charge of prosecuting the case. If convicted, the defendants face a sentence of not less than 20 years of imprisonment and up to life under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846 and 860 and a minimum sentence of not less than five years of imprisonment and up to life under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.