25 Members Of A Violent Gang Charged With Drug Trafficking In Mayagüez, Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN, P.R (STL.News) On March 29, 2021, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a six-count indictment charging 25 gang members with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, and aiding and abetting in the possession/distribution of controlled substances, announced W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB) Mayagüez Strike Force investigated the case.
“This indictment and the arrests this morning demonstrate our continued resolve to combat drug trafficking,” said W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We are committed to dismantling and removing the threat posed by these criminal organizations flooding our communities with dangerous narcotics and violence.”
“This case exemplifies that those involved in the distribution of narcotics and other contraband will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” said Iván J. Arvelo, special agent in charge for HSI San Juan. “HSI thanks our local, state and federal law enforcement partners for their significant cooperation in dismantling this drug trafficking organization.”
The indictment alleges that from in or about the year 2016, to the date of the return of the indictment, the drug trafficking organization distributed cocaine base (commonly known as “crack”), heroin, cocaine, and marihuana, within 1,000 feet of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Public Housing Project (PHP), and other areas in the municipality of Mayagüez, all for financial gain and profit.
As part of the conspiracy, the members of the drug trafficking gang established drug points that moved within different areas inside the public housing project to avoid police detection. Some co-conspirators collected the profits from the drug trafficking sales and traveled within the municipality of Mayagüez and other areas nearby to deliver the proceeds to the leaders of the organization. The defendants had access to different vehicles to transport money, narcotics, and firearms.
At different points during the conspiracy the leaders provided members of the organization with different types of firearms to protect themselves, the narcotics, and their proceeds. The leaders had final approval authority as to disciplinary action to be imposed upon residents of the Franklin D. Roosevelt PHP and the members of the conspiracy to maintain control of the drug trafficking activities in the area. The co-conspirators of the gang used force, violence, and intimidation to maintain control of the areas in which they operated. Nine defendants are facing one count of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
The defendants acted in different roles to further the goals of the conspiracy, to wit leaders, enforcers, runners, sellers, and facilitators. The individuals indicted are:
Luis S. Rivera-Ruiz, a/k/a “Pantera”
Miguel Ángel Santiago-Jiménez, a/k/a “Miguelito”
Kifran A. Casiano-Alayon
Jeffrey E. González-Vargas
Joseph Vélez-Mondessi, a/k/a “El Negro/Joe”
Francheska Valle-Díaz, a/k/a “Cheska”
Eduardo Rodríguez-Rodríguez, a/k/a “Edward”
William F. Vélez-Borrero, a/k/a “El Negro”
José A. Rivera-Soto, a/k/a/ “Che”
Nelson Rosario-Sánchez, a/k/a “El Menor/Nelsito”
Roy Alexander Santiago-Vélez
Isa Denisse Vélez-Cruz
Keishla Marie Colón, a/k/a “Kei”
Erickson Lugo-Méndez, a/k/a “Tripi”
Kevin O. Montalvo-Ruiz, a/k/a “Keva”
Kevin J. Rodríguez-Cruz
Miguel Alfredo Ruiz-Rodríguez
Yadiel Joebell Iglesias-Izquierdo
Athdiel Aponte-Pérez, a/k/a “Bebe”
Carlos G. Arce-Santiago
Isben Jaret Rivera-Cardoza
Assistant U.S. Attorney Pedro R. Casablanca and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Yanira Colón-García from the Puerto Rico Department of Justice are in charge of the prosecution of the case. The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection collaborated during the arrests.
If convicted the defendants face a minimum sentence of 10 years, and up to life in prison. If convicted of both the drug and firearms charges, the defendants face a minimum sentence of 15 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.