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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

40 Individuals Charged With Drug Trafficking

Press Release

US Attorney's Office

March 8, 2016

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Today federal authorities arrested 34 mem-
bers of a drug trafficking organization which operated in the Santiago
Iglesias Public Housing Project, in the municipality of Ponce, announ-
ced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the Dis-
trict of Puerto Rico. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the
Police of Puerto Rico Ponce Strike Force are in charge of the investiga-

On March 3, 2016, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico re-
turned a six-count indictment against 40 defendants charged with cons-
piracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, aiding
and abetting in the possession /distribution of heroin, cocaine base, co-
caine and marijuana, and conspiracy to possess firearm in furtherance
of a drug trafficking crime.

The indictment charges 40 individuals for their participation in a cons-
piracy to knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute
cocaine base (crack), heroin, cocaine and marihuana all within 1,000
feet of the real property comprising the Santiago Iglesias Public Hou-
sing Project, a housing facility owned by a public housing authority,
and other areas nearby and within the Municipality of Ponce, Puerto

During the span of the conspiracy, in order to be able to operate a drug
point at Santiago Iglesias Public Housing Project, “rent” would be paid
to the leaders of the drug trafficking organization and their family mem-
bers. As part of the manner and means of the conspiracy, control of the
drug points at Santiago Iglesias was obtained and maintained by the use
of force, violence, and intimidation. The drug points operated twenty-
four (24) hours a day, in 2 shifts per day.

The indictment also alleges that the co-conspirators had many roles in
order to further the goals of the conspiracy.  Narcotics belonging to mem-
bers of the Santiago Iglesias drug trafficking organization were being sold
in other areas of Ponce, including but not limited to the Aristides Chavier
Public Housing Project, the Gandara Public Housing Project, and the Por-
tugues Public Housing Project.  As part of the conspiracy, armed indivi-
duals would get paid by the drug trafficking organization to provide secu-
rity at the Santiago Iglesias Public Housing Project.  Members of the drug
trafficking organization would forcibly evict individuals from their apart-
ments if they were perceived to be cooperators or if they were unwilling
to abide by the rules set by the organization.

The defendants are: Goodwin Vargas-Gonzalez, Robert J. Guzman-Cruz,
Miguel A. Rosario-Lugo, Gabriel Confesor Martinez-Cruz, Steven J. Ayala-
Martinez, Geraldo Rivera-Lugo, Steven Echevarria-Medina, Jonathan Ro-
driguez, Christopher Jusino Rodriguez, Juan Gabriel Vega-Madera, Santi-
ago Delgado-Marquez, Pedro L. Lugo-Santiago, Jan C. Camacho-Perez,
Hector Montes-Rodriguez, Leonel Sujeil Quiñones-Cruz, Gerardo Rivera-
Feliciano, Jose E. Moreau-Rosado, Alexander Ramirez-León, Josue Jorge
Rodriguez, Luis A. Rivera-Quiñones, Anthony Zorilla-Figueroa, Angel G.
 Delgado-Velazquez, Alcides Yamsell-Garcia, Kenneth Mayol-Torres, Fran-
cisco Ortiz-Torres, Hector Cintrón- Rodriguez, Eddie J. Vidal-Moran, Luis
A. Rivera-Class, Athos Vega-Vidal, Dimari Cardona-Antonetti, Ismael A-
ponte-Santos, Reynaldo Colon-Natal, Richard Ortiz-Nieves, Luz Maria San-
tiago, Natasha Colon-Natal, Jose A. Nieves-Echevarria, Yoshua D. Roman-
Quiñones, Arquelio Gonzalez-Negron, Jose I. Aponte-Santos, Carlos J. San-
tiago-Rivera. The defendants are facing a forfeiture allegation of ten million

“Today’s arrests demonstrate our commitment to dismantle drug traffick-
ing organizations whose members are affecting the quality of life of the
law abiding citizens in our public housing projects,” said Rosa Emilia Ro-
dríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “Federal and
state law enforcement agencies will continue their hard work to maintain
the peace in our neighborhoods.”

“This case involved the long-term victimization of entire communities, who
were forced to live in fear due to the nearly incomprehensible level of vio-
lence and narcotics trafficking taking place around them.  Sadly, housing pro-
jects that were designed to provide affordable living have instead become a
breeding ground for violent gangs and criminal enterprises.  The hearts of
everyone in the FBI go out to those families who were denied their basic
rights to a safe environment in which to raise children, enjoy retirement, or
even to walk safely through the streets of their neighborhoods.  As demons-
trated today, the law enforcement community will continue to make a prio-
rity of targeting for federal investigation those individuals who join together
to pray on the innocent,” said Douglas A. Leff, Special Agent in Charge,
Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Teresa Zapata-Valladares is in charge of the prose-
cution of the case.  If convicted, the defendants face a minimum sentence
of 10 years, and 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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