For Immediate Release
20 Individuals Charged with Drug Trafficking in Puerto Rico Project Safe Neighborhoods Enforcement Effort
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On August 23, 2018, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment against 20 defendants charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances in the municipality of Guaynabo, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), Bayamón Strike Force Unit, are in charge of the investigation. This case is part of the US Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative.
The indictment alleges that beginning in or about 2013, the organization distributed heroin, cocaine base (crack), cocaine, marihuana, Oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet), Alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax), and Tramadol all within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising the La Rosaleda Public Housing Project, a housing facility owned by a public housing authority, the Yambele Ward (“Barrio Yambele”), and other areas nearby, and within the Municipalities of Guaynabo and San Juan, Puerto Rico, all for significant financial gain and profit.
The 20 defendants acted in different roles in order to further the goals of their organization, to wit: leaders, drug point owners, enforcers, runners and sellers. Thirteen of the defendants are facing one charge of possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crime.
According to the indictment, it was further part of the manner and means of the conspiracy that individuals suspected of cooperating with law enforcement, or who were suspected of not being loyal to the organization or its members, were forcefully evicted from their apartments at the La Rosaleda Public Housing Project. Organization members would then keep the apartments, at times with the acquiescence of La Rosaleda’s administration.
As part of the conspiracy, armed conspirators provided security to the drug point. The organization and its leaders would maintain contact with its incarcerated members through the use of cell phones.
The defendants are:  Jean Carlos Benitez-Meléndez, a.k.a. “Wako/Yanki/W”;  Santos Daniel Rondón-García, a.k.a. “Dan”;  Allen Miranda-Meléndez, a.k.a. “Duke/Alex Miranda/Dk”;  Santos Meléndez-Pizarro, a.k.a. “Peligro/Danger/Kiko/K”;  José Cabrera-Cañuelas, a.k.a. “Cheo”;  Jesús Alexis Pastrana-González, a.k.a. “Alexis Pastrana/Pastrana”;  Javier Meléndez Castro, a.k.a. “Verdugo/Melen”;  Brian D. López-Torres, a.k.a. “El Gordo”;  Pedro Cuevas-Berrios, a.k.a. “Piri/Goldo”;  Edgar Cana-Serrano;  Joshua Joel Luna-Irizarry;  Brandon Joseph Alago-De Jesús;  Ángel Luis Rosado-Meléndez, a.k.a. “Chino”;  Eduardo Benitez-Meléndez, a.k.a.“Mamel”;  Adams García-Camacho, a.k.a. “Adam”;  Ángel Damian Febus-Meléndez, a.k.a. “Damian/Ak”;  Ian Dariel La Santa-Rodríguez, a.k.a. “Menor”;  Nelson O. López-Ortega, a.k.a. “Zombi”;  Luis Albert Bonilla, a.k.a. “Albert”;  Julio David Andino-Diaz, a.k.a. “Jdian”.
“This indictment and the arrests this morning are a significant victory in our efforts to combat drug trafficking and violent crime,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We will continue to conduct investigations with our counterparts to dismantle these criminal organizations and to send a clear message that drugs, firearms, and violence will not be tolerated in our neighborhoods.”
“This successful investigation was a result of the dedicated efforts of the men and women of ATF Puerto Rico who work diligently, every day, to ensure the safety of our citizens,” said Ari Shapira, ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Field Division.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Teresa S. Zapata-Valladares is in charge of the prosecution 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.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a federal program designed to bring together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting each community’s most violent criminals. Attorney General Sessions directed all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, and local law enforcement, as well as the local civilian community, to develop effective, targeted strategies to reduce violent crime. This case is a product of that collaborative effort.
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