72 Individuals Indicted For Drug Trafficking In The Municipality Of San Juan
Defendants are facing a forfeiture allegation of 15 million dollars
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - On May 28, 2014, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment against 72 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, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and (ATF), Drug Enforcement (DEA) and Federal Bureau of (FBI) agents and officers of the Puerto Rico Police (PRPD) and the San Juan Municipal (SJPD) executed the arrest warrants.
The indictment charges 72 individuals with conspiracy to knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute cocaine (crack), heroin, cocaine, marijuana, (commonly known as Percocet) and (commonly known as Xanax), all within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising the Jardines de Monte Hatillo Housing Project and other areas nearby, all located within the Municipality of San Juan, all for significant financial gain and profit.
The indictment alleges that beginning in 2007, the organization established drug distribution points located at different areas in Monte Hatillo, San Martin Housing Project, Jardines de Berwind Towers, and El Polvorin Ward. Leaders would routinely authorize and instruct other co-conspirators to provide free “samples” of narcotics to “customers” in order to promote the sales of a specific brand of drug at the drug points.
Some of the defendants would routinely possess, carry, brandish and use firearms, including “high power” rifles, to protect themselves and the drug trafficking organization from rival gangs. They would have access to different type of vehicles, including but not limited to cars, motorcycles and scooters, in order to transport money, narcotics and firearms. Also, these vehicles would often be used by some of the defendants and their co-conspirators to conduct drive by shooting and to “hunt” members of rival gangs.
As part of the manner and means of the conspiracy, leaders would collect monies from the sales of the drug point in shifts to create a money (known as “el pote,” in Spanish) in order to buy weapons and ammunition, for the use of the members of the drug trafficking organization, and/or for the payment of legal fees and matters for the benefit of the members of the drug trafficking organization.
The 72 co-conspirators had many roles in order to further the goals of the conspiracy. According to the indictment this organization had 27 leaders/drug point owners/drug point administrators. The remainder defendants acted as enforcers, suppliers, drug processors, runners, sellers, and facilitators. Twenty-one of the individuals are facing one count of using and carrying firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
“This investigation and six-count indictment represent a top-to-bottom dismantling of a violent criminal organization intent on polluting our neighborhoods with drugs,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “The criminal activity laid out in this indictment shows the lengths people will go to sell drugs, but it should also underscore our commitment to fighting back. Federal and local law enforcement agencies remain committed to work tirelessly to target and eliminate the most significant threats to our communities.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alberto López-Rocafort and Teresa Zapata-Valladares are in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in prison. 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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