--Multi-Ton Quantities of Cocaine Shipped Aboard American Airlines Commercial Aircraft Destined for Continental United States--
San Juan, PR – On May 31, a federal grand jury indicted 25 individuals as a result of an investigation lead by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice, announced today United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.
The defendants are charged in a 16 count indictment with violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.
The defendants were members and associates of a criminal organization whose members and associates engaged in narcotics distribution and criminal acts principally out of the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The leader of the organization is Maribel Rodríguez-Fragoso, aka “La Flaca.”
The indictment alleges that in or around 2010 until May 2012, members of the enterprise and their associates carried kilograms of cocaine in backpack/bags, or hidden on their person, or driving official work vehicles into the Airport through the employees secured entrance. Once in the secured area, they would transfer the kilograms of cocaine to couriers inside of a designated restroom, who would then board flights departing to the continental United States.
It is further alleged that members of the enterprise transported large sums of drug proceeds in the form of U.S. currency from the continental United States to Puerto Rico. Some of the drug proceeds were used to purchase items, such as vehicles, which were regularly used to further the enterprise.
DEA Deputy Administrator Thomas M. Harrigan today said, “Americans have a right to expect the highest integrity from those they entrust with their safety, and DEA is committed to protecting that trust. Today’s arrests at one of the nation’s busiest airports reflect our relentless commitment to working with our partners to aggressively fight drug trafficking, not only at our nation’s points of entry, but at source, transit, and arrival zones throughout the world.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian Kidd, Sean Torriente and Justin Martin from the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. This unit operates under the Narcotics Unit, and it is supervised by the Chief of the Narcotics Unit, AUSA Timothy Henwood. This unit is yet another component of our new initiative against violent crime and illegal firearms.
A second indictment unsealed today charges 20 individuals for aiding and abetting each other, and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 9000 kilograms of cocaine, aboard American Airlines commercial aircrafts. At times pertinent to this indictment, convict Wilfredo Rodríguez-Rosado, aka “Mogoyo” recruited and organized a group of individuals to package, transport and deliver suitcases loaded with kilograms of cocaine to the American Airlines cargo area at the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport. Moreover, he recruited and organized a group of American Airlines employees to ensure that those suitcases were smuggled into American Airlines aircrafts destined to Miami and Orlando, Florida and Newark, NJ.
The case was investigated by the DEA, the PRPD, and the FBI, with the collaboration of the San Juan Municipal Police, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Olga Castellón, Mariana Bauzá and Maritza González.
“The defendants in this investigation not only utilized their positions and security access to smuggle large quantities of illegal narcotics, but they also compromised the safety and security at one of the Caribbean’s most vital airports,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Caribbean Division, Pedro Janer. “DEA will continue to dismantle these organizations that think they can blatantly use legitimate entities to carry out their smuggling operations.”
“The United States Attorney’s Office, along with our state and federal law enforcement counterparts, will continue investigating and prosecuting drug trafficking organizations which use our island as a trans-shipment point for drugs to the U.S. mainland. The use of commercial aircraft to smuggle narcotics in and out of Puerto Rico, also creates a serious threat to our national security,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
The defendants in both cases are facing a minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years up to life. Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The DEA Caribbean Division would also like to extend its gratitude to the DEA Divisions in New York, Miami, Newark and Dallas for their incredible support and assistance.