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Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs
For Immediate Release
Thursday, May 2, 2024

62 Members of Violent Gang Charged with Drug Trafficking and Firearms Violations in Puerto Rico

On April 24, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging 62 violent gang members from Arecibo, Puerto Rico, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, possession and distribution of controlled substances, and firearms violations.

“Thanks to the work of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI, U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), and our state and local partners, more than 60 alleged gang members have been charged and over $72 million in drugs have been seized in this operation,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The residents of public housing projects deserve better than to be terrorized by violent drug trafficking gangs, and the Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to dismantle the gangs that fuel violent crime and profit from poisoning our communities.”

“The allegations in today’s indictments tell a scary story about gang violence in these public housing communities,” said ATF Director Steven Dettelbach. “For all the innocent residents who are trying to raise healthy families in safe communities, law enforcement wants you to know that we are here for you. Living in public housing cannot, and should not, mean being subjected to an atmosphere of gun violence and drug dealing around you and your family. ATF’s number one priority is getting the worst criminals — the trigger pullers and drug dealers — off the streets. When rival gangs declare war on each other in the streets in any city, it is the innocent bystanders that suffer the greatest consequences. I want to commend all the ATF agents and our federal and local partners who worked tirelessly to make Arecibo and all of Puerto Rico a safer place.”

“The arrests in this case underscore the resolve of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and its law enforcement partners to uphold the rule of law and bring to justice violent criminals who threaten our communities,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico. “The Justice Department remains steadfast in its commitment to dismantle criminal organizations, hold gang members accountable, and pursue justice for victims.”

“Through the relentless collaboration, between the DEA and ATF, state and federal partners have dealt significant blows to the violent drug trafficking organizations operating within the El Cotto public housing project,” said Special Agent in Charge Denise Foster of the DEA Detroit Field Office. “With over $72 million in street value narcotics seized and over 40 arrests made, our joint efforts underscore our unwavering commitment to dismantling criminal enterprises and safeguarding our communities.”

The indictment alleges that, from 2014 through the present, the defendants worked as part of a drug trafficking organization (DTO) that distributed illegal drugs for significant financial gain and profit — including cocaine base (commonly known as crack), heroin, cocaine, marijuana, Oxycodone (commonly known as Percocet), Alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax), Clonazepam (commonly known as Klonopin), and Tramadol — all within 1,000 feet of the Ramón Marín Solá Public Housing Project (PHP), Trina Padilla de Sanz PHP, Manuel Zeno Gandía PHP, Bella Vista PHP, and La Meseta PHP, all five facilities owned by a public housing authority and collectively referred to as El Cotto. The charging documents further allege that the leaders of the DTO that operates within the five PHPs comprising El Cotto met regularly to discuss drug trafficking activities and prevent issues between the members of the organization. The goal of the DTO was to maintain control of the drug trafficking activities within their territory by the use of force, threats, violence, and intimidation.

The defendants acted in different roles to further the goals of the drug trafficking conspiracy, including acting as leaders, enforcers, runners, sellers, and facilitators. The defendants charged in the indictment are:

  1. Melquisedec Navarro-Lorenzo, also known as Melqui and La M
  2. Joel Caraballo-López, also known as Flaqui
  3. Luis Amezquita-Lorenzo, also known as Berto and Bethoven
  4. Reinaldo Ortiz-González, also known as Chiqui, Compi Rey, Rajao, and Viejo
  5. Alex Montalvo-Novoa, also known as Alex Chiquito
  6. Jonathan Joel Franco-Mercado, also known as Gancho
  7. Ivan Acosta-Rodríguez, also known as Luis Ivan Acosta Rodríguez, Luis Ivan Santiago Pérez, Ivan El Negro, Billy The Kid, and Wakala
  8. Albert De Jesús-Schelmety, also known as Macu and Macuco
  9. Renso Marcial-Rodríguez
  10. Josué Cedeño-Feliciano, also known as Camboya
  11. César Cardona-Mena, also known as Chivas
  12. Lydia M. Pagán-Arocho, also known as Tata
  13. Luis Méndez-Medina, also known as Tommy El Gago and Tommy El Loco
  14. Jonathan Robles-Maldonado, also known as Paramédico and Jonathan Paramédico
  15. Joseph Sanabria-Alequin, also known as Pitbull
  16. Yefrain Molina-Viruet, also known as Harry Potter
  17. Erick Juarbe-Rodríguez, also known as Erico
  18. Ramón Colón-Crespo, also known as Papito
  19. Jonathan Feliciano-Torres, also known as Duende
  20. Abdiel Yadiel Carrión-Rosado, also known as Gemelo
  21. Yadiel Abdiel Carrión-Rosado, also known as Gemelo
  22. Emmanuel Pérez-Rodríguez, also known as Manny, Manes, and El Duraco Del Castillo
  23. Obrian D. Mercado-Rivera
  24. Ashley J. Rodríguez-Pérez, also known as Chal and Char
  25. Jimar I. Álvarez-Maldonado, also known as Gordo
  26. Jimel J. Ortiz-Delgado, also known as Miky and La Jota
  27. Bryan Medina-Herrera, also known as Bryan Dialysis
  28. Rafael Valle-Delgado, also known as Rafa Valle
  29. Mitzuel Torres-Rivera
  30. Jan C. Cuevas-Correa
  31. Alexander Serrano-Colón, also known as Calle 13
  32. Joselito Rodríguez-Álvarez, also known as Bombili
  33. Ángel M. Felix-García, also known as Bully
  34. Ángel Cortés-Soto, also known as Ángel el Bizco
  35. Evans Y. Herrera-Quiñones, also known as El Enano
  36. Luis O. Valentin-Rivera, also known as Luis Paramédico, Paramédico Valentin, and Omar
  37. Jesús D. Rodríguez-Martínez, also known as Spock and Danny
  38. Héctor Y. Rodríguez-Miranda, also known as Negri/Negrito
  39. Michael Jordan-Lugo, also known as Jordan and Goldo
  40. Kenneth Medina-Velázquez, also known as Kenny
  41. Edgardo J. Ríos-Santana, also known as Coco
  42. Kelvin Hernández-Bonilla, also known as Yampi and Yapi
  43. Carlos Rodríguez-Herrera, also known as Carlitos and Hermano de Brian Dialysis
  44. Natanael Franco-Mercado, also known as Nata, Hermano de Gancho, and Cirilo
  45. Amisael Flores-Martínez, also known as Misa
  46. Giovanni Molina-Viruet, also known as Giovannie and Giovanny
  47. Alvin Y. Torres-Santiago, also known as Wisin and Yamil
  48. Emmanuel Serrano-Feliciano, also known as Nana
  49. Brandom L. Díaz-Navarro, also known as Brandon
  50. Joshua Vargas-Feliciano, also known as Buda
  51. Geovanell Mercado-Marrero, also known as Kiko
  52. Jorge Cintrón-Cordero, also known as Ogui
  53. Adonis J. Rosado-Serrano
  54. Jonathan Ayala-Torres, also known as Menor, Siete Pestes, and Jon
  55. José Santiago-Quiles, also known as Ewan
  56. Liuzkany Rivera-Arroyo, also known as Kany and Luzkany
  57. Adrián M. Lezca
  58. Kevin X. Pérez-Molina, also known as Chino
  59. Jair X. Galarza, also known as Marciano
  60. Shaquilomar Molina-Soto, also known as Shaquille
  61. Israel Rivera-Rivera, also known as Gemelo
  62. Dexie Marie Narpiel Nieves, also known as La Flaca, Depsi, and Petunia

If convicted on the drug trafficking charges, the defendants face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison. Thirty-six of the above-listed defendants also face one charge of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. If convicted on the firearms charge, the defendants face a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison, to be served consecutively to any penalty imposed on the drug trafficking charges. Upon conviction, all defendants are subject to a narcotics forfeiture allegation of $72,868,600. If convicted, a federal district court judge will determine any sentence after consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

ATF, the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB), Arecibo Strike Force, and DEA investigated the case, with the collaboration of the FBI, USMS, Bayamón Municipal Police, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Puerto Rico Public Housing Authority, and Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Gang Section Alberto López-Rocafort, Deputy Chief of the Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Teresa Zapata-Valladares, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Pedro R. Casablanca and R. Vance Eaton for the District of Puerto Rico are prosecuting the case.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


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