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25 Individuals Indicted for Drug Trafficking at Santa Catalina Public Housing Project in Yauco, Puerto Rico

FEB 24 (SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) – On February 19, 2015, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment against 25 defendants charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances in the municipality of Yauco, PR, announced Vito S. Guarino, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Caribbean Division.  The DEA is in charge of the investigation, with the collaboration of the Puerto Rico Police Department, specially the Ponce Strike Force.

The 25 defendants are: José L. Colón-Paneto, aka “Walter;” José A. Colón-Paneto, aka “Jun;” Jonathan Vargas-Torres, aka “Johny;” Christian Vargas-Torres, aka “Chola;” Ricardo Camacho, aka “Ricardito;” John-John Maldonado-Paneto; Jesús Santiago-Bracero, aka “Jesus Payaso;” Carlos Manuel Pérez-Lugo, aka “Chiqui Moya;” Julio Alberto Millán-Irizarry, aka “Berti;” Baldo Anthony Cancel-Pérez, aka “Anthony;” Fernando Pacheco-Ortiz, aka “Chinito;” Luis Alberto Figueroa-Pagán, aka “Kiri;” Christian Xavier Torres-Rivera, aka “Pitito;” Wilson R. Satiago-Bracero, aka “Gordo Payaso;” Raymond L. Lamberty-Torres, aka “Lamberty;” John Paul Rivera-Santiago; Radamés Medina-Irizarry, aka “Rada;” Luis Gabriel Quiñones-Padilla, aka “Mona;” Manuel De Jesús-Castro, aka “Manolo;” Juan Ramón Flores-Colón, aka “Monchi;” Adela Paneto-Soto; Melvin Medina-Caraballo, aka “Melvito;” Prett Onell Santa-Torres, aka “Pre;” Alexis Javier Aponte-Negrón; and Daniel Rodríguez-Santiago, aka “Viejo Danny.”
  
The indictment alleges that beginning in 2007, the organization distributed heroin, crack, cocaine and marihuana within 1,000 feet of a real property comprising housing facility owned by a public housing authority, that is the Santa Catalina Public Housing Project and the Santa Catalina public school, all for financial gain and profit.

The 25 co-conspirators had many roles in order to further the goals of the conspiracy. The following are the roles as alleged in the indictment: three leaders/drug point owners/drug point administrators; three enforcers; five runners; and 14 sellers.  Nine of the defendants are facing one count of possession of firearms, including “high power” rifles, in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes.

The defendants would have access to different types of vehicles in order to transport money, narcotics and firearms. These vehicles would often be used by some of the defendants and their co-conspirators to conduct drive by shootings and to “hunt” rival gang members. Some of the defendants built a “handmade” firearm that was remotely controlled with a beeper with the intention of shooting at rivals and law enforcement who entered the public housing project.

It was further a part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that the defendants and their co-conspirators established drug distribution points in different areas inside the housing project, for example: between buildings 6, 13, 23, 24, 25; the construction trailers, the basketball court and the community center.

“Drug trafficking organizations must be aggressively attacked and dismantled at every level,” said Guarino.  “The result of this operation is nothing short of significant and it underscores law enforcement’s main goal: to keep drugs out of our neighborhoods.  These arrests will keep the law abiding citizens of Yauco safer from the inevitable violence that drug trafficking brings.”  

“The Drug Enforcement Administration initiated Operation Sudden Impact, in conjunction with the Puerto Rico Police Department- Ponce Strike Force to address the present drug problem that has plagued communities in Puerto Rico.  DEA will not allow these violent drug trafficking organizations to take control over the lives of innocent people who live in Santa Catalina Public Housing Project or any other communities,” said SAC Guarin.
 
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney María L. Montañez-Concepción is in charge of the prosecution of the case.  If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in prison. 

The defendants were the targets of a long-term Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) 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. This OCDETF investigation was led by the DEA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Ponce Task Force.

Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt.  Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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