Sample Block

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Torre Chardón, Suite 1201
350 Carlos Chardón Street
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00918

(787) 766-5656

For Immediate Release

October 21, 2010

Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney

Contact: Lymarie V. Llovet-Ayala
Public Affairs Specialist
(787) 282-1820; (787) 340-1835

68 Individuals Indicted for Drug Trafficking in Loíza, Puerto Rico

Forfeiture Allegations for 16 Million Dollars

SAN JUAN, PR — On October 20, 2010, a federal grand jury indicted sixty-eight (68) individuals as a result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau (ATF) and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), announced today United States Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. The defendants are charged in three separate two-count indictments, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute narcotics and conspiracy to possess and use firearms during and in relation to a drug related offense.

The first indictment charges fifty-one (51) individuals from the Villa Cañona Ward II in Loíza, lead by Jeremil Escalera Rivera, aka Jerry, Luis Matta Quiñones, aka Bala, and Victor L. Matta Quiñones. These co-conspirators had many roles, in order to further the goals of the conspiracy, including: three (3) leaders and owners, two (2) enforcers, five (5) runners, forty-three (43) sellers, and three (3) facilitators and providers of storage facilities. Count two charges twenty-two (22) defendants with using and carrying firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. It was further part of the conspiracy that the leaders would distribute samples of narcotic substances among the drug addicts in order to have them test the narcotics. The second indictment charges ten (10) defendants in a drug trafficking organization that operated in Villa Cañona II ward since January 2007. This organization, lead by Alexander Rodríguez Ríos, aka Alex Cano, was selling crack and marijuana within one thousand (1,000) feet from the elementary public school Celso González Villaran and the María de la Cruz head Start pre-school. Three (3) co-conspirators are charged with conspiracy to use and possess firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.

The third indictment charges fifteen (15) individuals lead by Yesenia Cruz Romero, who operated a crack drug point at Villa Cañona I, one thousand (1,000) feet from the elementary public school Celso González Villaran and the María de la Cruz Head Start pre-school. Five (5) co-conspirators are charged of conspiracy to use and possess firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.

Federal and state law enforcement agencies joined forces to remove these drug trafficking organizations which for many years had been intimidating the citizens of the municipality of Loíza with their violence and had been spreading the scourge of illegal drugs in this town and neighboring communities, said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez. Today’s operation is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and our ongoing efforts to continue to fight drug trafficking in Puerto Rico.

Today DEA shots down the principal and most lucrative heroin, crack, and marijuana distribution center in the town of Loíza and the entire northeast region of Puerto Rico, said Javier F. Peña, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Caribbean Division. DEA’s enduring efforts with our OCDETF partners have one goal: to cut violence in Loíza by demolishing these three violent drug trafficking organizations.

This investigation is just another example of collaboration and partnerships between ATF, our Federal law enforcement brethren, and the Police of Puerto Rico in the never ending battle to stem the flow of illegal firearms and narcotics into our communities, said Hugo Barrera, Special Agent In Charge of ATF. These armed individuals terrorized the community of Loíza and we are proud to be members of this investigation to thwart these criminal organizations.

The case was investigated by DEA, ATF and PRPD, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Carmen Márquez and Ilianys Rivera.

If convicted, the defendants face a minimum of ten (10) years imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment, with fines of up to $4 million. Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.