SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The Honorable H.S. Garcia, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Mr. Jerome M. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, Mr. Luis G. Zambrana, Chairman of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), Hon. Annabelle Rodriguez, Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice, and Mr. Victor M. Rivera, Puerto Rico Police Superintendent, jointly announced today the arrest of 21 members of a drug trafficking organization as a result of a HIDTA investigation, conducted under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. This OCDETF investigation was initiated in January of 2002 by the DEA HIDTA Major Organizations Initiative. This HIDTA OCDETF investigation culminated with Federal Grand Jury indictments, issued on September 15, 2003, charging Thirty-three (33) members of this organization with violations to Title 21 U.S. Code, Sections 846, 843(b), and Title 18 U.S. Code, Sections 1791, 853 and 2. The indictments seek the seizure of assets, properties, and money amassed by the organization, which are derived, directly or indirectly, from their drug trafficking activities. These individuals belong to an organization led by Felix Rafael EGIPCIACO-Figueroa, based in Canovanas, Puerto Rico (PR). This organization is suspected of distributing hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and dozens of pounds of heroin trough numerous drug distribution points, mainly in housing projects, extending throughout the island of Puerto Rico.
The tactical phase of this operation was initiated on September 17, 2003, with an undercover buy-bust operation, which resulted in the arrest of the leader of the organization, EGIPCIACO-Figueroa and defendant Jonathan GONZALEZ-Juan, when DEA HIDTA undercover agents purchased Two (2) kilograms of cocaine from the pair. Two vehicles were also seized in this DEA HIDTA undercover operation. The tactical phase continued on September 18, 2003. The combined efforts of HIDTA and the OCDETF program brought together over 180 enforcement agents from the DEA, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), United States Marshal Service (USMS), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), U.S. Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General (Justice OIG), Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Puerto Rico Justice Department's Special Investigations Bureau (NIE), and the Police of Puerto Rico whom executed the remaining arrest warrants issued pursuant to the Grand Jury indictments. In addition, the HIDTA enforcement agents executed Eight (8) Federal search warrants on several residences and busines owned and operated by the organization. The Puerto Rico National Guard Counterdrug Support Task Force provided air and logistical support for this massive tactical operation.
Thus far, the defendants arrested as a result of this HIDTA OCDETF investigation are:
Penalties for convictions of the offenses alleged in the indictment range from Ten (10) years to life imprisonment, and fines up to $4,000,000.00. The public is reminded that the indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial and the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.