PONCE, Puerto Rico – A federal grand jury indicted 66 individuals last Tuesday as a result of an investigation led by the Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez announced on Monday.
The defendants are charged in a six-count indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute “crack” (cocaine base), heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. The object of the conspiracy was to distribute controlled substances at the Dr. Manuel De La Pila Iglesias Public Housing Project and other areas nearby and within the municipality of Ponce, Puerto Rico, for significant financial gain and profit.
According to the indictment, from on or about the year 2007, the defendants conspired to possess with the intent to distribute “crack” (cocaine base), heroin, cocaine, and marijuana at the drug distribution points within the housing project and other points within its vicinity.
The main leaders of the organization were Francisco Santiago-Serrano, aka “Melluca”; Edel Lopez, aka “El Negro”; Rafael A. Rodriguez-Garcia, aka “Rafa” or “Rafa Glock”; Jomar Ramos-Rosado; Isueanette Lopez-Nazario, aka “Isua”; Wally Gonzalez-Rodriguez; Jesus E. Colon-Salinas, aka “Titito”; Israel Rodriguez-Zayas, aka “Raelo,” “Sangre,” “Vampiro”; Raymond Santiago Serrano, aka “Coscu”; Justo Bermudez-Stevens; and Teddy Rivera. The leaders of this drug trafficking organization purchased and transported wholesale amounts of cocaine that were delivered to co-conspirators for further distribution.
According to the indictment, the 66 co-conspirators had many roles in order to further the goals of the conspiracy, including: 11 leaders, eight enforcers, nine runners, 31 sellers, one lookout, and six facilitators and suppliers.
It was further part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that the drug points would move through different locations within Dr. Pila Housing Project to avoid being detected by law enforcement. It was further part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that members of the drug trafficking organization would use force, violence, and intimidation in order to threaten rival drug traffickers as well as members of their own organization in order to maintain control of the drug trafficking activities.
The leaders had final approving authority as to disciplinary action to be imposed upon their own co-conspirators as well as rivals of the organization. Twenty-eight members of the drug trafficking organization are facing one count for using and carrying firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
“Violent drug organizations hold our communities hostage and promulgate fear, intimidation, and violence, threatening the well-being of law abiding citizens,” said Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “This investigation has taken dangerous criminals off the streets of Puerto Rico and sends a clear message to other violent gangs that we will break their grip on our communities and bring them to justice, no matter where they are.”
“Today, at the Dr. Pila Public Housing Project, another violent drug trafficking gang was dismantled. However, this is not the first time that law enforcement has dismantled a drug trafficking gang in this housing project. This community and its leaders now have an opportunity to work against further crime in this area and prevent the cycle of gang infestation and drug trafficking. The FBI, with its partners will continue these investigations to assist Puerto Rico in developing safe communities for all citizens. A key aspect of success will be assistance from the public in identifying criminals and criminal activity,” said Joseph Campbell, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI-San Juan Field Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Alberto Lopez-Rocafort.
If convicted, the defendants face a minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment, with fines of up to $10 million. However, the 28 defendants charged in count six of the indictment face a minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years to life. Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.