Saturday, August 18, 2012

Thirteen Individuals Indicted in Puerto Rico for Drug Trafficking

SAN JUAN—A federal grand jury indicted 13 individuals yesterday as a result of an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice. The indictment was announced today by U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. The defendants are charged in a six-count indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, use of firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence, possession of machine guns, and other related offenses.

The indictment alleges that in approximately October 2009, the defendants conspired to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base (also known as “crack,” cocaine), heroin, and marijuana in the municipality of Manatí, Puerto Rico. As part of the manner and means of the conspiracy, the defendants and co-conspirators purchased kilogram quantities of marijuana in the continental United States and then shipped the marijuana to Puerto Rico using the U.S. mail, to be distributed by members of the criminal organization.

It is further alleged that the defendants and co-conspirators used the profits from the marijuana sales to purchase weapons, ammunition, and other materials in order to commit violent acts against rival drug trafficking organizations.

The indictment includes allegations of five murders and two attempted murders, all committed by members of this organization. These acts are as follows:

■On or about February 16, 2010, in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, defendants José Babilonia-Torres, aka “Bochi”; Victor Real-Alomar, aka “Tostón”; and José González-Bernard, aka “el Mudo” and “Tio,” shot and killed Frankie Rodríguez-Ornedo, aka “Periquito.”
■On or about August 18, 2010, in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, defendant González-Bernard shot killed Luis Rodríguez-Rodríguez, aka “Gaby.”
■In or about 2010, in Puerto Rico, defendants Babilonia-Torres and González-Bernard shot and attempted to kill José Cintron-Otero, aka “Checko.”
■On or about March 18, 2011, in Dorado, Puerto Rico, defendants Irving Melecio-Ramírez, aka “Gordo”; Xavier Melecio Ramírez, aka “Xavo”; Victor Real-Alomar, aka “Tostón”; González-Bernard; Félix A. Hernández-Burgos, aka “Bonito Pelo” and “Anthony”; and Alexis Hernández-Burgos, aka “Chucho” and “Chicho,” shot and killed Rolando Torres-Crespo, aka “Nandy” and Dimaries Broco-Irizarry, a lawyer, who was killed in a drive-by shooting.
■On or about June 7, 2011, in Puerto Rico, defendant González-Bernard, aiding and abetting others, killed José Espinal-Lorenzo, aka “Chelo.”
■On or about June 28, 2011, in Manatí, Puerto Rico, defendant Babilonia-Torres, shot and attempted to kill Jonathan Ortiz-Salgado, aka “Cochinola.”

The remainder of the defendants who are part of the organization and participated in its criminal acts include: Pablo Echevarría-Rodríguez; José Acevedo-Vélez, aka “Chapo”; Brian Osoria-Padilla; Orlando Félix-Negrón, aka “Orly”; Nelson Alonso-Galarza; and Pedro Javier Hernández-Sosa.

“Violent drug organizations whose members hold our community hostage through violence, intimidation, and fear should think twice about the consequences of their criminal activities,” said U.S. Attorney Rodríguez-Vélez. “We will continue to use all the tools at our disposal to take dangerous criminals off the streets of Puerto Rico until we break their grip on our communities and bring them to justice.”

USPIS Inspector in Charge Philip Bartlett said, “Over the past year, the Postal Inspection has altered its strategy regarding the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of those who would use the U.S. mails to transport illegal drugs and firearms. Our new approach seeks to identify, disrupt, and dismantle source drug trafficking organizations. In addition, we have strengthened our relationship with our federal and state law enforcement partners. This new level of inter-agency cooperation has had an impact on DTO’s operating in Puerto Rico.”

“The FBI is aggressively working in joint initiatives with other federal agencies and local authorities in the struggle against drug trafficking organizations that resort to violent crimes to distribute controlled substances throughout the island,” said Joseph Campbell, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI-San Juan Field Office.

“Today’s arrests should send a very clear message to those involved in drug trafficking that the HSI will not rest until you are brought to justice,” said Roberto Escobar Vargas, Special Agent in Charge of HSI San Juan. “HSI will continue working with our federal, state, and local partners to identify, arrest, and prosecute those responsible for importing narcotics into Puerto Rico, thus contributing to violence and criminal activity on the island.”

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin Martin and Sean Torriente from the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.

The defendants charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances face a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison. The defendants charged with use and carry of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime face a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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